Sowing in Tears for Shouts of Joy Songs of Ascent: Practices of the Lifelong Journey Series  Psalm 126
PSALM 126: A PILGRIM SONG ABOUT TEARS & JOY The Songs of Ascent [Psalms 120-134] contain the realistic rhythms of life. They are consisted of 5 triads: (1) trouble, (2) trust, (3) triumph. Psalm 126 is the first of the third triad—but this “trouble” psalm has a unique twist; tears and joy are its twin theme.
PSALM 126: A PILGRIM SONG ABOUT TEARS & JOY The realism of the psalms offers us insights on how to deal with tears as well as joy. The moralistic/religious way points us to minimize the dark side of our tears/pain—so, the goal becomes avoiding tears to achieve joy [= denial /repression]. The secular/worldly way points us to let it all out as they are—so, the goal becomes expressing our dark feelings in itself [= raw venting/emotional vomit]. The psalms point us to a better way—to pour out our dark feelings to God unreservedly; so the goal becomes praying our honest feelings [= honest/transparent process toward hope in God].
FOR EXAMPLE, Let’s look at Psalm 13: 1 How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?... (Notice the psalmist’s honest/transparent heart-pouring to God) 5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me. (Notice also the psalmist’s heart-pouring leads him to trust/hope in God) Now with this insight, let’s look at our text Psalm 126…
Psalm 126 [ESV] A Song of Ascents. 1When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. 2Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." 3The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.
Psalm 126 [ESV] A Song of Ascents. 4Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb! 5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! 6He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
HOW TO SOW IN TEARS FOR SHOUTS OF JOY 1)Looking at the past, RECOUNT your joy in God. 1When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. 2Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." 3The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. (vs.1-3)
HOW TO SOW IN TEARS FOR SHOUTS OF JOY 1)Looking at the past, RECOUNT your joy in God. The psalmist is now in a sorrowful difficult time—not a joyful good time; but the first thing that he does is to recount his/their joy in God. Why? The BEST JOY that they have experienced was from experiencing God in the great things He has done for them (it felt like a dream). Recounting our past experiences of God’s deliverance give us hope but also life-giving anticipation for true joy in God.
6 Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? 7 Show us your unfailing love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation. Psalm 85:6-7
The Happiest of All Joys Joy in God is the happiest of all joys. There are other sweets, but this is the virgin honey dripping fresh from the comb. Joy in God is also a most elevating joy. Those who joy in wealth grow avaricious. Those who joy in their friends too often lose nobility of spirit. But he who boasts in God grows like God. It is a solid joy, and he who joys in God has good reasons for rejoicing. He has arguments which will justify His joy at any time. It is an abiding joy. In a word, it is celestial [supernatural] joy. - Charles H. Spurgeon
HOW TO SOW IN TEARS FOR SHOUTS OF JOY 2)Looking at the present, EXPECT tears—as well as joy. Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb! (v.4) MYTH: “Nothing bad will happen to me if I am really good.” The conclusion is to try harder to avoid tears. REALITY: “Tears are a part of our Christian pilgrimage.” In following Christ, some tears are even required and encouraged (cf., Matthew 5:4; 2 Cor. 7:10, “godly sorrow”). Why? We can embrace tears & suffering with hopeful confidence because we know the promise of joy will be ours in the end.
17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
HOW TO SOW IN TEARS FOR SHOUTS OF JOY 3)Looking at the future, PLANT your tears for joy. 5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! 6He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. (vs.5-6)
HOW TO SOW IN TEARS FOR SHOUTS OF JOY 3)Looking at the future, PLANT your tears for joy. Our sorrowful sowing will bring joyful reaping. We must NOT waste our tears (in self-pity, self-absorption, pseudo repentance, etc.). Planting/sowing involves “going out”—which includes daily obedience, perseverance, service, giving, hard work, faithfulness, sharing the gospel. The confident promise is shouts of joy! In so doing, we are to pray our tears (1) through the realization of grace, (2) through a vision of the cross, & (3) through the assurance of glory [Tim Keller].
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8 3More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
There Is Something We Can Do for Joy We come to God (and to the revelation of God’s ways) because none of us have it within ourselves, except momentarily, to be joyous. Joy is a product of abundance; it is the overflow of vitality. It is life working together harmoniously. It is exuberance. Inadequate sinners as we are, none of us can manage that for very long. We try to get it through entertainment. We pay someone to make jokes, tell stories, perform dramatic actions, sing songs... Joy cannot be commanded, purchased or arranged. But there is something we can do. We can decide to live in response to the abundance of God and not under the dictatorship of our own poor needs. We can decide to live in the environment of a living God and not our own dying selves. We can decide to center ourselves in the God who generously gives and not in our own egos which greedily grab. - Eugene Peterson
Praying the Songs of Ascent #7 -- Psalm 126 [MSG] A Pilgrim Song 1-3 It seemed like a dream, too good to be true, when God returned Zion's exiles. We laughed, we sang, we couldn't believe our good fortune. We were the talk of the nations— "God was wonderful to them!" God was wonderful to us; we are one happy people. 4-6 And now, God, do it again— bring rains to our drought-stricken lives So those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest, So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR OUR EVERYDAY LIFE 1.Learn to PRAY YOUR TEARS as you sow in them. Do not avoid or repress your tears. Do not merely express your tears. Pour out your heart to God transparently. 2.Decide to CENTER YOURSELF IN GOD who can overflow your cup with joy. Do not be lured by worldly joys. Give up on living for your poor needs and shift your focus on delighting God as your prime joy. Be sure to “go out” in faith, rejoicing in the LORD!