lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts. It was I who sent
this great destroying army against you.
I hate insects. If it crawls, it might take some time for me to muster up the courage to kill it, but I can generally dispose of crawling critters without help. Hopping bugs are another matter - hopping spiders, crickets, grasshoppers...unpredictable little stinkers I'm afraid will hop on ME definitely elicit a scream and a cry for help. Then there are the 'swarming' bugs. Annoying ones like gnats and mosquitoes to painful or potentially deadly insects like wasps, hornets and bees. For them, I've got a shot of Raid from a distance! Ugh!!
But the Bible mentions one insect I've only encountered in the "proverbial sense". Locusts. Frankly, before reading Joel, I had no idea there were so many KINDS of locusts...and one sounds more repulsive than the next! Swarming locusts, hopping locusts, stripping and cutting locusts! Just the description makes them sound terrifying, dangerous and ruthless!
Locusts make their Biblical debut in Exodus as one of the plagues on Egypt when Pharaoh hardened his heart and wouldn't let the Israelites leave. Pretty much with the exception of them being listed on the menu of John the Baptist, they are always mentioned in connection with destruction. In fact, did you know that as winged adults, flying in swarms, locusts can be carried by the wind hundreds of miles from their breeding grounds? These flying lawnmowers can grow up to 6 inches long, and when they land, they devour all vegetation.
I can't even imagine what it would be like to live through something like a swarm of locusts...I get nervous just watching Alfred Hitchcock's movie "The Birds"! And yet, in some ways, I have lived through a swarm. There have been times when I felt my life was like a field of desolation in the wake of a locust invasion. Everything appeared to have been eaten. Just like the Biblical description, the locusts came in waves. When I thought it was over and there was something left to harvest, the next wave came in and took more from me.
The swarming locusts came early - as a result of poor choices in young adulthood - an abortion and a rocky, unhealthy, unequally yoked marriage. The hopping locusts came in things I had no control over - the death of my mom, the loss of my job. The cutting and stripping locusts came to glean the fields of the stubble...separation and divorce after 31 years of marriage.
One day, in the midst of all the infestations and devastation, I found Joel 2:25 and clung to the first half of the verse with everything in me. "I will give you back"...some translations say "I will pay you back" or "I will restore the years the locusts have eaten." I took that to mean that God would rescue me from my misery. That He would give me a man who loved me, perhaps financial security, happiness. But today, I look at that verse differently.
Just recently I saw I'd been missing an integral part of that verse - the last part that says, "It was I who sent this great destroying army against you." Ouch! Why would He do that?
Some might argue those locusts were punishment for sins committed on my part. Although I've long since asked forgiveness for those things which were in my control and believe forgiveness was granted, I also know there are consequences of our sin and we must live with those. On the other hand, one could bring up Job and all that he suffered without sinning. It could simply be because we live in a fallen world and this side of heaven we will always have to deal with pain and suffering. Regardless of the reasons why, the important lesson is that God, in His divine love, used those devouring locusts and that devastating destruction to teach me, mold me, and grow me into the person I am today.
And these days, that's what I think it really means to have the years restored. I walk with God like never before in my life. I've been restored to wholeness. I have not fleeting happiness, but lasting joy. God uses all those experiences to give me a way to relate to so many others. I don't know if there will ever be a man in my life or enough money to live comfortably. But I do know I've counseled young women on avoiding or dealing with bad relationship choices and the unseen scars of abortion. I can empathize with those who have lost a parent or a job and share with them how God helped me move on from grief and reinvent myself in the job market. And I can encourage someone going through divorce so they know they can recover and move on.
Through the CommunityConnections ministry I head up in my church, God allows me to share His vision of restoration for lives in our community that have been devoured and devastated as well. This is how the years have been given back to me. I am learning and teaching, I am productive and joyous, I am a living testimony to God's restoring grace and divine love.