My brother tells this story about West Africa. It illustrates the need to be faithful even if it hurts and seems to make little immediate sense. So, here it is…
In the Sahel, a stretch of Savannah near the Sahara, all the moisture comes in a four month period: May, June, July, and August. After that, there is no rain for eight months. The ground cracks from dryness along with your hands and feet. The winds of the Sahara pick up the dust and throw it thousands of feet into the air. The year's food, mostly sorghum or milo, must all be grown in those four months.
October and November are beautiful months. The granaries are full and people sing and dance. They eat two meals a day. The sorghum is ground to make flour and then a mush with the consistency of yesterday's Cream of Wheat. The meal lies heavy on their stomachs so they can sleep.
December comes, and the granaries start to recede. Many families omit the morning meal. By January, only one in fifty family still has two meals a day. By February, the evening meal diminishes. The meal shrinks even more during March and children succumb to sickness. You don't stay well on half a meal a day. In April you hear the babies crying in the twilight. Most of the days pass with only an evening cup of gruel.
Then, inevitably, it happens. A young boy comes running to his father with excitement. "Daddy! Daddy! We've got grain!" he shouts. "Son, you know we haven't had grain for weeks." "Yes, we have!" the boy insists. "Out in the hut where we keep the goats -- there's a leather sack hanging up on the wall -- I reached up and put my hand in there -- Daddy, there's grain in there! Give it to Mommy so she can make flour, and tonight our tummies can sleep!"
The father stands motionless. "Son, we can't do that," he softly explains. "That's next year's seed grain. It's the only thing between us and starvation. We're waiting for the rains, and then we must use it." When the rains arrive, the young boy watches as his father takes the sack from the wall and does the most unreasonable thing imaginable. Instead of feeding his desperately weakened family, he goes to the field and with tears streaming down his face, he takes the precious seed and throws it away in the dirt. Why? Because he believes in the harvest.
The seed is his. He can do anything with it he wants. The act of sowing it hurts so much that he cries. But as the African pastors say when they preach on Psalm 126, "Brother and sisters, this is God's law of the harvest. Don't expect to rejoice later unless you are willing to sow in tears." How much would it cost you to sow in tears? I don't mean just giving God something from your abundance, but finding a way to say, "I believe in the harvest, and therefore I will give what makes no sense. I must sow regardless, in order that I may someday celebrate with songs of joy."