There’s just something about a mountain stream that lightens the heart. Something joyful as the water tumbles, bubbles, and dances along its rock-strewn path. The way the light sparkles as it dances against a stone. And the sounds – like laughter that ranges from a gentle giggle to a mighty roar as it splashes from stone to stone. It’s as if the stream is sharing a secret with us if we’ll only stop long enough to hear it. It’s a secret also revealed in God’s Word.
Psalms 126 was written for a specific time. For many long years, the Israelites were held captive in Babylon. For years they sowed in tears, grieving over the loss of their homes and longing to return again. It was during those years that we read of Nebuchadnezzar’s challenges to their faith, the desire of Haman to kill them, and the trap laid for Daniel which led to his time in the lion’s den. These were dark challenging days to which there seemed no end. Then a new kingdom ascended and God worked a miracle and the captives were allowed to return home.
When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream!
We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy.
And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.”
Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us!
Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert.
Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.”
(Psalm 126, NLT)
Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. Like a mountain stream as it tumbles, bubbles, and dances along; it is the rocks and stones of life that reveal our joy. Without the stones, a mountain stream would just be a placid creek. So often we seek cheap painless joy; expecting a harvest when we haven’t sown with tears. The tears could be those of pain, grief, intercession, sacrifice, or love. The connection between pain and joy is displayed in the cross of Christ. “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.” (Hebrews 12:2b, NLT) We see it in childbirth. We see it in the death of a Christ follower. We see it when a difficult task has been accomplished. Pain and struggle reveal joy. It’s a truth about joy that we often forget or ignore.
Or consider the lame beggar at the gates of the temple in Acts 3. When Peter and John passed by they didn’t drop a few coins and walk on. They didn’t have any coins to drop. But the Spirit and perhaps their memory of Jesus’ works prompted them. “But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened.” (Acts 3:6–7, NASB95) The healed and restored beggar entered the Temple Courtyard walking and leaping and praising God! Many entered the courtyard that day, but few with the effervescent joy of this man.
The stubborn truth about joy is that it often birthed through our pain. Now, I don’t wish for your life to be stony, troubled, or rocky. Not at all. Nor do we seek pain for the sake of joy. So often we want God to “smooth out” our lives. For our ducks to be in a row with everything and everyone in the right place. But it’s when the way is rocky, when things seem hopelessly out of control, or when my heart aches that God is healing and changing me in ways I can’t imagine. I’ve learned to avoid asking “why” when struggles come, but to instead ask “what.” What are you up to here God? What lesson are You teaching that I need to hear? What part of my wayward heart are you working on with this struggle? What are you healing in me today? I find enormous joy in knowing that God uses all things for His purposes. Joy like a mountain stream tumbling, bubbling, and dancing over the stones.
Do you have a story about how God used the stones of life to reveal joy? I’d love to hear it. Email me – firstname.lastname@example.org