Sowing in Tears – Lenten Lament

by sculptor Tony Quickle

Psalm 126

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

The men’s group of one of my previous churches felt the calling to help troubled young men in our community.  I remember one of the men, George, sharing with me his sadness about one of the boys he tried to help, David.  David was without a father and running with the wrong crowd.  He had been arrested a few times.  The men’s group and George particularly felt they should reach out to him, scholarship him for the sports he wanted to do, give him work, and try to be a good influence.  They outfitted him with new clothes and George set the boy up a job at his car dealership.  The boy never showed. Every time George tried to help David, David would turn away and end up in even more trouble.

George couldn’t really understand all of this.  This wasn’t how it was supposed to work, right?  I mean, if you help someone and invest in them, and you give them all the opportuntities to turn their life around, aren’t they are supposed to turn out okay?  How can someone who is being giving the opportunity to have a better life, have people willing to help him, how can he just throw all that away?  You would think that George would have been mad, but instead he was sad – almost to tears for the inability he felt that he couldn’t turn David around.

The psalmist wrote, “May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.”

The Psalms.  They are songs.  They are acts of praise.  They are moments of worship.  They are prayers.  But they offer us something much richer and deeper and more troubling.  They can also be cries of pain and frustration to God.  Unfortunately for many of us Christians, we only like to think of the Psalms as uplifting praise.  These Psalms, which are beautiful and wonderful can be important for us during seasons of well-being.  A former professor of mine, Walter Brueggemann, calls these types of psalms “psalms of orientation”.  They articulate the joy, delight, goodness, coherence, and reliability of God, God’s creation, and God’s governing law.

But Bruggemann goes on to point out that life is not always joy, delight, goodness, and coherence.  Life for us is not always “oriented” correctly.  Human life also consists of anguished seasons of hurt, alienation, suffering, and death. And when we face those seasons, different emotions rise up – rage, resentment, self-pity, and hatred. There are psalms that match these feelings as well, but we don’t always life them up in our society or our churches.  Bruggemann calls these complaint or lament psalms “psalms of disorientation”. They are poems, songs and prayers that match our feelings of “unsettledness”. They are cries out to God from the depth of our pain and despair. They seek resolution.  They ask questions.  They cry out in frustration and pain.

May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.

Sowing in tears.  You and I know sowing in tears.  My friend George knew sowing in tears.  When you invest, plant the seed in a life or a situation and the torrents of rain wash it away.  The psalms of lament call us not to deny the reality that we sow in tears but to cry out to God when we do!  The hope is that we will ultimately reap with joy, but for a time we sow in tears.  Why would we deny this voice?  Do we think God will be disappointed in us?

Crying out to God in prayer is not an act of NO FAITH, rather it is an extreme and deep act OF FAITH.  How?  Because as people of faith we believe God hears our joys and our sorrows.  As people of faith, we speak these laments TO God!  God longs for us to come to him in prayer – in the good and in the bad.

It’s time to stop denying the prayers of lament.  You may need to cry out to God.  My friend George needed to.  He needed to hear the cry from Psalm 126 that those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s