When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs 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 are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with him.  Psalm 126

   In her fight against breast cancer, Christian author and speaker, Margaret Feinberg decided to fight back with joy. But first she mourned. Having a Jewish heritage, she read in the Bible that people such as Job, would rend or tear their garments when they heard bad news. So more than once, she had herself a good cry and with scissors she would clip an edge of her chosen piece of clothing and then tear the fabric, saying as she tore along with Job “The Lord gives and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” She writes:

In this communication with God, a blockage to Him was replaced with newfound tenderness. In this prayer, in this act, I became more honest with my pain and anger. When done well, mourning can help us choose to rejoice even when it doesn’t add up. It’s not based on present conditions but on God’s power to redeem.

    If we don’t grieve, we will die a little inside and then we won’t be comforted by God or come to rejoice in our sufferings because of what God is doing.

     It is clear that the one who wrote this psalm and those who sing it are no strangers to the dark side. They remembered the exile and oppression of their past. They knew deserts and nights of weeping. They knew what it meant to sow in tears. Laughter does not exclude weeping. Christian joy is not denial of sorrow, but it sees God as the source of joy and holds on to Him.

Feinberg writes:

In practicing defiant joy, my life is marked by more gratitude than ever. That said, some mornings, crawling out of bed is a major accomplishment. A day without pain, a triumph. A drive to the hospital without breathing into a paper bag, a victory. Hardships have a way of making us wonder if God has abandoned us.  I assure you, He has not.

     These last two verses describe our near future but they also describe our ultimate future. They came back rejoicing, bringing sheaves. One day we will be home and all will be well.

*Ask God to show you what it would look like for you to mourn then to give joy away (to sow so that you can reap).

O God, You have done great things for me in the past, and now I ask You to do it again. May I sow seeds of defiant joy—faith coupled with hope that You are a God of tigerish love, and I can trust in Your wisdom and might. May I look up and trust You, believing that the time of harvest will come. A harvest of joy. Help me to live to make You look good. I give You praise, in Jesus name, Amen.

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