Over the course of this year, the importance of prayer has become ever more apparent to me. I think it’s safe to say that I have prayed more this year than I have ever prayed in my life. Of course, I still have plenty of room to grow in this spiritual discipline, but I have learned to lean on God in prayer throughout this year like never before. I am thankful for the challenges that have led me to that deeper relationship with him.
Part of what has helped me focus in prayer this year has been reading through a daily devotional book on the Psalms by Tim Keller called “The Songs of Jesus.” In this wonderful little book, Keller takes the reader through the Psalms, offering helpful insights along the way. What a blessing this book has been to me this year!
Recently one of the readings landed on Psalm 126 (NIV):
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
2 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.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
This passage got me thinking about something related to the mission work we are planning to do – a thought that centered especially around verses 5 and 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.”
Sowing with tears, reaping with joy … what a beautiful description of carrying the gospel to a foreign land!
I’m not sure I could always say that I have sown with tears. To be honest, when we moved to Japan previously, I was excited to live in Japan. I didn’t really mind leaving home that much. I knew there would be some things I would miss, but I was excited to live abroad in a country I deeply loved.
This time is different.
Don’t misunderstand – I still deeply love Japan, and am excited to see our friends and loved ones again. I’m excited to do the work, and I am energized for the mission. But leaving home isn’t so easy this time. Perhaps it’s because I’m older. Maybe it’s because my kids are older, and that my parents and in-laws and other family members are older. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’ve come to see my usefulness in the Kingdom more clearly since we came back to the U.S., and I feel that I can have a valuable place in ministry at home. Probably it’s a mixture of all of those things. Either way, leaving isn’t as easy as it was last time. There are days and times that I’m excited to return, but there are just as many moments where I’m incredibly anxious about leaving, with worry and sadness filling my heart. More than once I have cried in prayer to my Father about these things.
So, why still go? Because I believe his promise – that when we sow with tears, we will reap with joy. The tears we shed in leaving, the tears we shed in prayer (for ourselves, our family, and for the people of Japan), and the tears we shed as we face various trials, will – by God’s gracious hand – lead to a wonderful harvest. We may sow in tears, but when we return it will be with shouts of joy and the glorious sheaves God has given tucked between our arms.
What seems like a barren wasteland (the Negev) will grow and become lush and green and productive when the streams of God’s mercy flow through it. It will all be by his power and grace. But when the tears have ended and the harvest has come, we, with all God’s people, will join in a joyful cry: “The Lord has done great things…” Lord, do great things for your name!
Interested in partnering with us in this work? Find out more information by clicking here.