Tears in the Desert

In Psalm 126, the psalmist asks of God, ‘Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb!’ It is a powerful image: rivers of water running into the desert, turning a wilderness into a garden. 

And returning from exile, the psalmist is asking God to do just that in his life and the life of the people.

But then he takes the metaphor further, to sowing and reaping and harvest: ‘Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!’ So, it’s not just the wilderness of the Negeb that can run with rivers of waters, the wilderness of our lives can run with rivers of tears. We weep over sin; over the hurts done to us and the hurts done by us to others. But just like streams of water precede the blooming of the desert garden, so streams of tears can precede a harvest of joy in our lives.

It was the same at the first Christmas. Herod, in his murderous desire to cling to power, massacred the innocents in Bethlehem, bringing numerous families down to the desert of grief. No wonder Matthew applies the words of Jeremiah to them: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children.” And yet, it was out of that wilderness of death and grief that Christ came.

But, the psalmist says, for life to come from tears, you’ve got to go out and sow. ‘He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.’ Allow self-pity to take root and you’ll become more and more housebound. You won’t go out, physically or emotionally. But through your tears, take the seed God has given you, go out to sow, and you will reap a harvest of joy. In your life and in the lives of those God allows you to sow into.