Crop loss is heartbreaking for a farmer or grower. In the early years of my father’s greenhouse business, he experienced some profound losses due to insects and plant diseases. I remember times when thrips, a tiny insect, ruined entire greenhouses of product. Seeing our dump pile heaped at various times with damaged, unsellable pink cyclamen, red poinsettias, purple petunias, or other flowering plants, made us sick to our stomachs.
The once beautiful crops represented thousands of dollars in labor hours, growth chemicals, heating bills and advertising. There would be no return on investment thanks to savage creatures difficult to see with the naked eye.
Reading Joel 1 this morning recalls those days of loss for our family. “A nation has invaded my land, a mighty army without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees.” (verses 6-7 NIV) This description of a destructive locust invasion in Judah becomes more graphic in the rest of the chapter. The land became so devastated; Joel describes domestic and wild animals staggering about looking for food and water.
These people lived through an event as nuclear to their lives and economy as any earthquake, flood or fire we might experience in modern times. The utter barrenness of their formerly lush countryside completely dismantled the lives they once knew. There were no harvests to reap or sell, no ability to create goods like bread and wine. They suddenly had no means to feed their livestock and produce meat, milk and clothing. I’m guessing despair and depression stalked the land.
Life events can create the same effects for us. Divorce, disease, death, job loss, financial loss, weather events can all turn everyday life completely upside down. Relationships are torn apart and possessions destroyed. Reputations are ruined and futures robbed. Our minds stagger about wondering what will become of us. How can we move forward?
“Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate. “ (Joel 2:13b NIV) Judah’s sin problem needed to be dealt with. The same is true for us if we are suffering under the consequences of sinful choices we’ve made. But what if we aren’t living in unrepentant sin? What if the locusts shred our lives through other people’s sinful choices or even natural disasters?
We still return to God. He is the only one able to heal a heart broken by the departure of a spouse whether by death or unfaithfulness. His provision and power alone can restore lost goods, lost health and lost finances. The goodness and mercy which follow us each day, are constants when our world dissolves. His wisdom, knowledge and insight give clear direction to cope with the current crisis and plan for the future.
Is your life currently under locust attack? Perhaps you’re just coming out of terrible grief and confusion. Maybe you feel stuck in a grinding wheel of circumstances that shows no sign of stopping and you’re not sure you’re going to survive it.
Find comfort and strength in these words from Joel:
“I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil.” (2:19b) God is in the business of restoration. Your losses can never exceed his provision.
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten..” (2:25) God sees the length of your season of loss. If you fear that your present has permanently destroyed your future, remember Job. Trust God to fashion a new future even better than the one you had planned.
“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” (3:28) If you will hold fast to God’s hand through your ordeal, He will empower and anoint you with His Spirit. The Spirit will bring comfort and lead you into all the truth you need to go forward.
Finally, I leave you with Jesus’ own words, to assure you of His care. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”