The Psalmist begins in verse 1 by referring to the Lord's restoration of Israel. What is this restoration? Through their disobedience Israel invited calamity upon themselves. God used this calamity to discipline them and remind them of his call to obedience. After disciplining them through calamity, the Lord restored them (See also 1 Chronicles 36:11-23).
The most significant restoration of Israel came after the Babylonians had captured them, exiling them from their land. After a time, the Lord moved the rulers of Babylon to allow Israel to return to their land and rebuild. This was as shocking as if ISIS decided to fund a Christian church planting movement. This is jaw-dropping. It's as if a friend unexpectedly offered to pay for your two week vacation or if you suddenly received a large inheritance from an unknown relative. "Pinch me. I'm dreaming," you might say. Or, in the words of the Psalmist in verse 2, "Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy."
In the same way, as we grow to love God more and become aware of the plight God saved us from, we too are filled with laughter and shouts of joy. God has saved us from eternal punishment. In the future, we will now enjoy an eternity of joy in God's presence!
But what do I have today to rejoice about? Heaven is all fine and good, but it's difficult to let that future prospect cause a "laughing out loud" response today.
What you have now is victory in Christ. You have a reason to live and have joy even in hard times. Our complaints are like a spoiled child who gets everything he wants on Christmas but still complains that one toy is not his favorite color.
The Psalmist cries out for restoration even while in the deserts of Negeb (verse 4). Even in the midst of trial or dry times in our lives, we should call out for restoration. The psalmist doesn't just passively wait, however. In verse 5 he says that the desert times in our lives should be filled with work. We should be sowing seeds that will bring about change and restoration. The desert doesn't bloom if nobody is planting.
Our response to our trials sows seeds that will bear fruit in the future. What kind of seed are you planting? Are you responding in bitterness, impatience, faltering faith, neglected Bible reading, anger, frustration, despair? If these are the seeds you sow, then they are the only fruit you'll reap. You'll grow more bitter and have a future filled only with more bitterness. However, if instead you respond to suffering with shouts of joy to God that even in the midst of trail you are joyful for his graciously saving you from eternal punishment, then you will have joy in suffering and bear fruit of future joy. If in trials you seek only the satisfaction found in Christ rather than the satisfaction found in the comfort of getting out of your current situation, then you will be planting seeds of joy that will produce the fruit of lasting joy. When you are in hard times, respond not with bitterness, grumpiness, and frustration. Respond instead with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control.
Working for joy in hard times is difficult. That is why the psalmist says, "Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!" You may complain that it's impossible to plant in the desert, that it's impossible to be joyful in your situation. "You don't know what I'm going through." Tell that to the guy who has a truck full of fruit and has made the desert bloom. If you respond in joy, love, and grace in your current trial, God will turn your trial into a reason to rejoice, a story that you will tell to everyone about God's joy that overcame darkness.