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Something to read

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.

- Psalm 126.5-6.

Something to think about

One of the ideas explored by the theologian Stanley Hauerwas is the human desire for control. There are good reasons why we want to control whatever we can, from our daily lives to world events. If we are in control then we can make things turn out for the best, can't we? We can step in and make sure that anyone who 'goes out weeping' can return with 'songs of joy'. To accept that it is not up to us to 'make history come out right', as Hauerwas argues, seems defeatist at best and, at worst, a betrayal of our responsibilities to others.

What Hauerwas is getting at, however, is that our efforts to be in control can and do go wrong. Far from making us think carefully about the welfare of others, our desire for control can lead us to take ethical shortcuts - manoeuvres that exclude certain people and situations for a supposed greater good. We start to think that our vision of the end or goal we are aiming for can justify almost any means. So long as there are 'songs of joy' in the end for someone, and so long as we can remain in control, we begin to accept that some people will have to 'go out weeping' and be forgotten about. We compromise our principles because the alternative would be to acknowledge that when we focus on taking control, we get things badly wrong.

What if, instead, we were able to recognise that it's up to God to 'make history come out right' and that God has already done so in the person of Jesus? This doesn't mean we can sit back and do nothing in the face of suffering. Far from it. But it does mean that our work as disciples is less about control and more about being present, being faithful, listening, responding to the unexpected, placing ourselves in the midst of difficult situations. We should help those who weep, with all our energies. It is right to want to turn sorrow and suffering to happiness and fulfilment. But we might need to reimagine what being part of God's work of turning tears to joy can look like.

Something to do

What makes you feel unsteady or out of control? Where do you seek control in your life? Take some quiet time to let go of some of the things you simply cannot control and to reimagine how you can help others in need.

Something to pray

Lord God, too often we put pressure on ourselves and others,

To make things come out right.

May we grow in faith and trust.

May we discern where you are always, already at work amongst us.

May we be open to the unexpected.

Give us the courage to let go of control when we need to,

And to find other ways to serve one another.


Today’s contributor is Dr Frances Clemson, Faith Communications and Just Scripture Specialist at Christian Aid.