May 26, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Psalm 126:5-6 (NRSV)
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.
Work is often hard—and not just hard, but painful. Yet in our struggles at work, we pray for God’s blessing. We look forward to the joy that is coming even in the midst of our pain.
Several years ago I was giving some lectures on faith and work to a group of pastors who served churches full of folks who did hard, manual labor. When I asked these pastors what came to mind when they thought about work, one answered immediately: “Suffering. When my people think about work, they think of suffering.”
The writer of Psalm 126 would tend to agree with this pastor. The psalmist talks about “those who sow in tears” (126:5) and who “go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing” (126:6). We are reminded that, for many, work is not just hard. It can be painful, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Yet Psalm 126 looks forward to the joy that comes when our work is fruitful. Whereas we sow with tears, we reap “with shouts of joy” (126:5). When our work is difficult, we ask the Lord to bless what we’re doing and, in time, to give us the joy of fruitfulness and accomplishment.
Gracious God, I come before you today with a heavy heart, but also with hope. My heart is heavy because my work is hard. And not just hard, but painful. My body aches. My mind feels exhausted. I am not getting the support from others that I deserve. But I do get their criticisms. I feel tired, Lord, worn out in body and soul. I am sowing, yes, but in tears.
I ask that you bless the work I’m doing. May it be fruitful. I look forward to the time when I can rejoice over what my work has accomplished.
In the meanwhile, Lord, I ask for your help. Help me to sense your presence as I work. Help me to know with confidence that you are right here with me. Give me the freedom to share my struggles with you, my pain and heartache. As I do, I ask for your comfort.
One day, Lord, the pains of this age will pass away. In that time we will rejoice in you, not just for a moment, but for eternity. As I think about that day, rekindle my hope. And may my hope for your future energize me for my work today. May I do it all for you, for your purposes and glory. Amen.
Ponder Throughout the Day
When your work is painful, know that God is with you. In time, your work will lead to joyful celebration.
For Further Reflection
Read all of Psalm 126.
Songwriter Isaac Wardell, of Bifrost Arts and The Porter’s Gate, has put the words of Psalm 126 to music in a moving way. You can listen to it here.
Banner image by Melissa Askew on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Streams in the Desert.
Subscribe to Life for Leaders
Sign up to receive a Life for Leaders devotional each day in your inbox. It’s free to subscribe and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.