Drinking Tears by the Bucketful: Sunday Inspiration from the High Calling

Drinking Tears by the Bucketful

You have fed us with sorrow
and made us drink tears by the bucketful.

Scripture regularly associates God with joy, exuberant joy. The Psalms calls us to sing with joy to the Lord (for example, Ps 67:4). The Apostle Paul urges us to be “full of joy in the Lord” (Phi.l 4:4). And, just in case we missed it, he adds, “I say it again—rejoice!” (Phil. 4:5).

But joy is not the only emotion that flows from relationship with the living God. Sadness shows up also, as we read in Psalm 80:5, “You have fed us with sorrow and made us drink tears by the bucketful.” The original Hebrew of this verse reads more literally, “You have made us eat the bread of tears and made us drink the tears of a [large] measure.”

What’s this? Has God fed his people with the bread of tears and tears by the bucketful? Has God inflicted sorrow upon his people?

Yes, he has. Psalm 80 only complains of what God has done, begging for help, but not providing any reason for the Lord’s unwelcome behavior. From elsewhere in Scripture, we know that God has brought upon his people the judgment that their rejection of him deserved. They are being disciplined for generations of rebellion against the Almighty.

Yet, we also know that God does not forever abandon us. Yes, he allows us to weep…for a season. But that is not the end of the story. As Psalm 126 celebrates: “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” (126:5-6). Through Jesus Christ, we have begun to experience the joy of this harvest, however partially (see, for example, 1 Pet. 1:3-9). Our sadness in this world increases our yearning for God, opening us to more of his grace. Even as we eat the bread of tears, we also eat the bread of new life, the body of our Lord. So we are sustained through times of sorrow by the hope of God’s future.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever felt as if God had given you a bucket of tears to drink? What happened in your relationship with God during this time? How is it possible for both sorrow and joy to be essential aspects of the Christian life?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, there are times, even now, when you give us tears by the bucketful. Yes, yes, there are many times of blessing and joy. But, sometimes, that for which we have earnestly prayed does not come to pass. People we love suffer and die. Homes are destroyed by flood or fire. Families splinter because of anger or unfaithfulness. We drink the tears that inevitably flow in a broken world such as ours.

In those times, we cry out with the Psalmist. We ask you to rescue us, heal us, and restore us. We recognize that you alone can save us from our sorrow. And so we pray: “Turn us again to yourself, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved” (Ps 80:19). Amen.
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This devotional comes from The High Calling: Everyday Conversations about Work, Life, and God (www.thehighcalling.org). You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace. The High Calling is associated with Laity Lodge, where I work.


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