In my daily Bible reading this morning, I came across a familiar and very meaningful passage:
I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. (Joel 2:25-26 NIV)
During a very bleak time in my life, a friend sent me a very encouraging note and included this passage. It brought a ray of light into the darkness of my emotional cave. It brought hope.
The Israelites were being disciplined by God for their idolatry and their lack of dependence on him. The image of locusts devouring crops captured their dire circumstances—unrelenting destruction on a massive scale. The Lord had used other more powerful nations to inflict his punishment. They did not leave much untouched.
Imagine yourself as a farmer going out to his fields to survey the damage wrought by a swarm of locusts. There is no crop left for harvest. A feeling of hopelessness wells up inside of you. I am sure this is how the Israelites felt. Surveying their nation, they despaired at what lay ahead. It was a dark time without hope. Have you ever felt that way?
Hopelessness is paralyzing. It is as if you continue breathing, but you can’t really move. Hope is what is necessary to make strides in life. Without it, we are just spinning our wheels and never really getting anywhere.
This is why this passage means so much to me. Those many years ago, I was spinning my wheels in grief and shame. As was true for the Israelites, my sin had gotten me where I was, and I was experiencing the full weight of the consequences. But God, through my friend, spoke words of hope to me that what had been taken away, the damage that had been done, would be repaid in blessings from his gracious hands. Though I didn’t know at the time what that might look like, it gave me hope, something to cling to while still in my darkness and despair.
And that hope got me moving forward again. Very small steps at first, but then increasingly longer strides. I felt like I had somewhere to go, a renewed purpose, and the Lord was leading me. I slowly emerged from my dark cave into the light and awaiting me were the blessings he had promised.
Over the many years later, there have been a few short periods where feelings of hopelessness rose up, but nothing close to that time. Yet, it has always served as a beacon of hope for me. The locusts came and wreaked devastation, but that wasn’t the end of my story. In his rich mercy, God repaid what was taken with untold blessings. As a result, I always cling to hope in the midst of very hard times. And I always praise the Lord for working wonders in my imperfect life. As he says through the prophet Isaiah, “those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” (Isaiah 49:23 NIV)
Truly, I can say I have not been.
© Jim Musser 2019