It was a paradigm shift.
After all, during our years learning in school, it was common to learn that sowing was hard work. I remember textbook illustrations showing beads of perspiration from the brows of farmers, whose faces were etched with exhaustion. So the term “sowing in tears” never surprised me.
Nonetheless, a devotional by John Piper made me rethink the principle of sowing and reaping, as he argues that sowing is neither necessarily hard nor sad, but that “it 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.”
He argues that if we do that, the promise of God is that we will “reap with shouts of joy” (Psalm 126:5-6) not because the tears of sowing produce the joy of reaping, which is what I had always assumed, but because “the sheer sowing produces the reaping, and we (you) need to remember this even when your tears tempt you to give up sowing.”
It made me reflect on our recent pregnancy, that during my darkest moments through it, as I struggled with guilt about whether the antepartum depression would affect our child, I entertained the dark thought that perhaps if I ended our lives, everything would be better.
I thank God that I did not, because through the valley of weeping, He gave me hope. Hope that eventually, this grief and sadness and unspeakable pain and guilt would end.
And it did. Because when Esther-Praise was born, what a joy and peace she brought to our home and our lives!
Looking back, I understand now what Piper meant- that at times, perhaps, all God is asking us to do is to be faithful and do the work that needs to be done, even if it’s through tears.
Whether it’s stewarding a dream He has given, carrying a baby to term, doing the dishes, filing taxes, making the next meal… we have to trust that the simple, faithful, hopeful work of sowing will bring in the harvest, and our tears will be turned to joy.
For all that time, God never stopped growing our child.
Yet, I do think that during the process of “sowing in tears”, many of us doubt a joyful outcome. Perhaps, we even suspect that our sadness might affect the sowing, and eventually, the quality of the harvest. We falsely believe that if someone else carried our dream to pass, the outcome would be far better.
I know I felt that way. Every day during that period, the guilt of my pain possibly affecting our unborn child weighed on me heavily.
One day, however, at a conference, I accidentally seated ourselves at a table where the guest speaker and his assistant were at. Midway through a very awkward lunch, his assistant, seated next to me, said, “I see a picture in my mind that I feel God wants me to share with you. It’s a picture of a beautiful rose in a glass jar, like the one from Beauty and the Beast. And I feel like God is saying you don’t have to try and protect the rose or feel guilty about not protecting it enough, because He is the Giver of Life and He is protecting your child.”
Tears welled up in my eyes, knowing that it was message from God- this person didn’t know a thing about my struggles.
Then, as if to confirm His message to me again, as doubts about whether the depression had affected our child in the womb came to haunt me, I received a beautiful bouquet of red roses soon after my labor from my mother-in-law who didn’t know about that incident. These were not ordinary roses- when they bloomed, they were as large as your palms, and they bore an uncanny resemblance to the rose described in that prophetic picture. The depression lifted, feeling like a faded memory in history.
True enough, over the weeks, we’ve discovered Esther-Praise to be the calmest, most easily content baby we’ve ever heard of or seen. Since her third day of life, she’s been smiling in her sleep, sleeping mostly through the night, and hardly crying much.
Even though the sowing was in tears, God protected the seed and glorified the harvest.
This weekend, as we reflect on Christ’s death and resurrection, as we grapple with the tension between the extremes of death and life, tears and joy, defeat and glory, can we take heart in knowing that as long as we stay faithful to continue sowing, even amidst our tears, that God Himself will be faithful to turn our tears into joy, and cause us to come home with shouts of joy, bringing sheaves from a glorious harvest with us.
Through your tears, know this- that as long as you keep sowing, God gives us hope that our sowing, however painful, shall ultimately reap joy.
After all, He rose from the dead, He defeated even death.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.
Listen to the podcast, Episode 20 at www.kitesong.com/podcast