“Those who sow with tearsPsalm 126:5-6 NIV
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
The Christian faith never bypasses the reality of suffering in our world in exchange for a candy-coated, feel good, your best life now message. “Your best life now” does feel good, until something tragic disrupts your life and that hollow, feel-good message cracks wide open, revealing its emptiness. The Scriptures are rich with stories of the depth of suffering from Job to Jesus, from Peter to Paul, to the great cloud of witnesses. They provide us with insight into the means of coping and resilience.
Christians have been promised suffering in their lives. And Christians have demonstrated how to find joy on the other side of suffering.
In the middle of great pain or sadness, it is hard to imagine there could ever be another day of rejoicing. And yet, the Bible promises it over and over again.
The verses in Psalm 126 deliver a beautiful word picture. Imagine your tears as a handful of grains of wheat. In grief, you walk a long, barren field. The seeds spill out from your hand. The loss seems unreasonable, irrational, unjust, unfair. You water your seeds with a spray of questions, “How long, Lord? Why, Lord? What on earth, Lord?”
The field is long, and the walk you’re on can feel purposeless sometimes. What is the point of taking all these steps? But inside, muscles are building. Cells are healing. Wounds are closing. You notice that all this decomposing rubble around you is actually fertile ground now, and you are grateful. The sky is bright. The tree line in the distance is green, so green you can’t even believe it, and for the first time in a long time, you have hope. You turn.
The long rows behind you — where you shed your seeds of tears — are gold with heads of grain, so many sheaves you can’t even begin to gather all of them. Somehow, the time, the steps you took, the people who ministered to you, the way creation nurtured your soul… God used it all to grow in you songs of joy.
Jesus told his disciples before he suffered the terrible suffering of the cross, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). If grief and sorrow is heavy on your heart these days, take heart. Rejoicing comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5 NIV).
Points of Reflection
- When I think back on seasons of suffering in my life, I wouldn’t wish that suffering on anyone. And I am also grateful for how God used that season to change and shape me—if given the chance to do it over, I wouldn’t trade that joy to be spared that suffering. How has God redeemed your suffering in the past? What “sheaves of joy” came from that season?
- How can the faithfulness of God in the past—whether in your own life or in the lives of others—help you navigate this or future seasons?
For the Kids
- How do you think God turns sadness into joy, as described in the verses above?
- Where do you go to be comforted when you are sad?
Think about your circle of friends, family, or neighbors: who do you know that is going through a season of suffering or grief? How might you bless them this week? We can be people who help each other cultivate seeds of sorrow into songs of joy.
Sometimes, reading the stories of others who are walking their way through the fields of grief can help us feel less alone in our own sorrow or suffering. Roger Rosenblatt is the author of Making Toast: A Family Story and Kayak Morning: Reflections on Love, Grief, and Small Boats. Both books are beautiful, heartbreaking meditations on what it takes to keep living after the loss of Rosenblatt’s 38-year-old daughter. Far from “how-to” guides on navigating grief, Rosenblatt’s memoirs are more like the stories of a close friend, opening his wounded soul to you.