I’m the sort of person who rolls with the punches (mostly). I keep a stiff upper lip, my chin up, I look for silver linings and any other cliché that means I typically get through it – whatever “it” is. However, there’s rolling with the punches and then there’s 2020 and 2021.
We are beyond rolling with the punches. We – all of us – have been sucker punched, gut punched and stabbed in the back. We don’t agree on much these days, but I think we can agree that the past year can be summed up in one word: Traumatic.
I heard a counselor say recently on his podcast that he estimates 90 percent (90 percent!) of people are operating with at least a low-level degree of trauma from the events of the past year. The amount of considerable change, fear, rapid-fire panic-inducing headlines, new and then newer normals, and more fear has left us battered and bruised inside and out. We’ve experienced physical, psychological, financial or spiritual trauma (maybe all) in a relatively short period of time. This virus has infected every facet of our lives.
The hurt is collective and yet, incredibly personal. We all know of (or are part of) families who haven’t seen each other in more than a year. If the pandemic hasn’t kept them apart, political chasms have. And it isn’t just simple party-line divisions. We have all kinds of new stances on things we never worried about a year ago. Never have I seen so many families drawing lines in the sand and choosing positions over kin.
Families have been upended in other ways in the past year. Friends of ours in Dallas are housing a high school student from a state that is still totally shut down. This student has promising talent in a sport that can’t be played in her home state. She’s moved away from her family to a state where she can continue to practice and hone her skills. This would-be extreme case has become common in the area we live. Major life changes are required just to do the things that we took for granted pre-2020.
It’s not just that we’ve lost a lot, but we’ve lost things we didn’t even know were up for grabs. Personally, I have grieved people and institutions that I held in high regard for their faithfulness, only to be reminded that He is the only one worthy of praise. Sure, Christians falling from grace has happened through the millennia, but the falls in the last year have been deeper and wider than in the past. Through much disappointment, I’ve been brought back to the truth Jesus spoke, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up” (Matthew 15:13). While necessary, the uprooting has been painful to watch.
It’s been one thing after another. Global and front doorstep. No part of life has remained untouched. It feels a lot like the prophet Joel describing the locust invasion of the Old Testament:
“What the locust swarm has left
the great locusts have eaten;
what the great locusts have left
the young locusts have eaten;
what the young locusts have left
other locusts have eaten” (Joel 1:4).
One thing after another. If there was any hope that some of the crop would remain, just wait, another swarm of locusts was coming. The locust swarm did not just impact the current crop. The locusts wiped out the seed saved from the previous year, the harvest of the current year, and the seed that would have been used for the next year. Good gracious, they even ate the bark off the trees. It would take years to redevelop and recover. Sounds and feels familiar.
If you’re unacquainted with the book of Joel, it is a short three-chapter book in the Old Testament flanked by Hosea and Amos. It can be easily missed, but I implore you, don’t miss it. The whole first chapter is calamity after calamity. But in Chapter 2, the tone changes. And it’s everything we need right now.
Joel calls the Israelites to repentance in order to stave off more judgement. He tells them what God wants from them even in desolation: “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love…” (Joel 2:13).
And they do return to Him. God delivers, redeems and restores what has been taken from His repentant children. And then Joel gives us one of the most beautiful verses in the entire Bible. God says, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25).
My heart can hardly take it.
God was not saying He would turn back the clock. He was assuring them that what had been lost – everything – would be restored in abundance in the coming years. It would be more than enough to make up for the devasting loss.
As Charles Spurgeon said about this verse, “It will strike you at once that the locusts did not eat the years…. You cannot have back your time; but there is a strange and wonderful way in which God can give back to you the wasted blessings, the unripened fruits of the years over which you mourned.”
This traumatic year cannot be literally restored, but it can be redeemed. The way things are right now is not the way they will always be. He is writing more chapters, and He’s already shown us the end of the Book. He will redeem everything. This traumatic year. Every lie ever told. Every betrayal. Every abuse. Every sick cell in your body. He will make all things new (Isaiah 43:19; Isaiah 65:17; Matthew 19:28; Revelation 21:5).
Stop and ponder:
- How has this been a “locust” year for you?
- What if you knew that God was going to restore you?
- How would the answers to question 2 change your perspective or the way you go about your day?
We’ve lost a lot. But all is not lost. We serve a God who replaces, restores and redeems. In abundance.
Dear Lord, thank You for being a God without limits to Your goodness. Thank You for revealing Your character in Your Word. We don’t have to guess who You are or what You are like. I’m so thankful that You are in control of every detail. We have no fear of destruction because we know You are a life-giver and promise to make all things new for Your children. Lord, restore for us the year the locusts have eaten. Maranatha! Amen.