By William Willimon, Pastor, pages 92-93, Abingdon Press, 2002:
A woman in my church suffered from periodic bouts of depression. These were described to me as times when she felt “down and depressed.” During such times, she would often call me to come by her house for a visit. I would have conversation with her, offer a prayer, and often she would say that she felt better.
One day she called me to come to her house because, she said, “I’m feeling kind of down today.” As Providence would have it, I was reading Walter Brueggemann’s commentary on Jeremiah. I told her that I would be by that afternoon. After speaking with her, I returned to my study of Jeremiah. Brueggemann says that among the prophets, one can discern a number of typical prophetic moves. The first prophetic move is tears, as the prophet attempts a public expression of grief. The prophet does this, not to leave people in tears, but rather so that people, through their grieving, might learn to be open to new arrangements of reality– to the will of God. Vision (or, re-vision) is dependent upon letting go, and in the relinquishment there are tears.
When I appeared at this parishioner’s house that afternoon, I had a different mode of care to offer. I said to her, “I want to apologize. I have been treating you as if you had some sort of illness. But how do I know that? Here you are, sitting in your half-million dollar house, with all that the world has to offer around you, and yet this doesn’t appear to be enough. You seem to be in grief, as if you were expecting more. I wonder why you think you deserve more, and that life could be even better for you than it is. Many people think Greenville is a great place to live. I wonder why you look for more.”
This led to a wonderful conversation about her life. We came to the conclusion that afternoon that God was indeed pushing her to some new place (and, I assume, some new endeavor –ed.). Her grief did appear to be a kind of prelude to a more abundant life, a wider world.
From A Godward Life, by John Piper, pages 89-90, 1997, Multnomah Press:
Psalm 126:5-6 — Those who sow with tears 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.
There is nothing sad about sowing seed. It takes no more work than reaping. The days can be beautiful. There can be great hope of harvest. Yet Psalm 126 speaks of “sowing in tears.” It says that someone “goes forth weeping, bearing the seed for sowing.” Why the weeping?
I think the reason is not that sowing is sad or that sowing is hard. I think the reason has nothing to do with sowing. Sowing is simply the work that has to be done, even when there are things in life that make us cry. The crops won’t wait while we finish our grief or solve all our problems. If we are going to eat next winter, we must get out in the field and sow the seed whether we are crying or not.
This psalm teaches the tough truth that there is work to be done whether I am emotionally up for it or not, and it is good for me to do it. Suppose you are in a season of heartache and discouragement, and it is time to sow seed. Do you say, “I can’t sow the field this spring, because I am brokenhearted and discouraged”? If you do that, you will not eat in the winter.
Suppose you say instead, “I am heartsick and discouraged. I cry if the milk spills at breakfast. I cry if the phone and doorbell ring at the same time. I cry for no reason at all, but the work needs to be done. That is the way life is. I do not feel like it, but I will do my crying while I do my duty. I will sow in tears.”
If you do that, the promise of this psalm is that you will “reap with songs of joy;” not because the tears of sowing produce the joy of reaping, but simply because sowing produces reaping. We need to remember this even when our tears tempt us to give up sowing.
George MacDonald counseled the troubled soul:
Think of something that thou ought to do and go to do it, if it be but the sweeping of a room or the preparing of a meal or a visit to a friend. Heed not thy feelings. Do thy work.
Here’s the lesson: When there are simple, straightforward jobs to be done, and you are full of sadness and the tears are flowing easily, go ahead and do the jobs with tears.
Then say, by faith in future grace on the basis of Gods Word, “Tears, I know that you will not stay forever. The very fact that I just do my work (tears and all) will in the end bring a harvest of blessing. God has promised. I trust him.”
Luke 17:10 — (Jesus said), “When you have done everything you were told to do, you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
Revelation 21:4a — He (God) will wipe away every tear from their eyes…
Eternal Father, who are the life and light of Thy children, we give Thee hearty thanks for all the blessings Thou has so abundantly bestowed upon us. We commend ourselves and all who are near and dear to us to Thy care and protection. Give us grace so to live that we may have insight to see what is right, inspiration to do what is right, and industry to keep on doing what is right at whatever cost. Grant us strength for all our work, understanding with all our endeavors, good will amid all our relationships, and peace in all our hearts. Amen.