By Amanda Ober
I recently signed up for a boot camp-style financial class at my church. Money management is not high on my list of topics I enjoy, but after hearing great reviews of the class I was excited to dig in.
On the first night we looked at a chart illustrating the impressive power of compound interest to grow your nest egg if you invest early in life. I did a quick survey of the room. Most of my classmates were in their twenties. I sighed as I thought of the opportunities I’d missed to start investing when I was their age. As regret washed over me, God brought to mind a scripture I was mildly familiar with. I heard Him whisper, “I will restore the years that the locusts have eaten.”
The next morning, I grabbed my Bible and looked up that verse. I had a sense God wanted to speak to me about matters more profound than missed investment opportunities. In Joel 2:25 the Lord promises the nation of Israel, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” I studied the verse in the context of the larger passage and learned that the prophet Joel used the locust invasion and the loss of Israel’s crops as an illustration of God’s judgment of Israel for its willful sin.
After Israel turned back to the Lord and cried out to Him, God pledged to restore them to a place of abundant blessing. He returned to them not just what they had lost, but much more! The harvest was described as “threshing floors that overflow with grain” and “vats overflowing with wine and oil.” I knew that promise was meant for me and I also knew God wasn’t just talking about money, but about the restoration of my heart.
Not long ago, an experience in my personal life left me with an “achy breaky heart.”
It was the kind of heartbreak where you crawl into bed at night clutching your soft-cover Bible to your chest because if you don’t cling to some tangible sense of Jesus sleep isn’t going to come. During those first days of grieving, I felt God ask me to take ten weeks to hunker down with Him. It was both an invitation and permission to clear my schedule of anything but the necessities and spend the rest of my time focused on Him.
Psalm 56 says God collects every tear we cry in a bottle. Over the course of those weeks I’m sure I filled several gallon containers as I poured out my sorrow to an audience of one. Those precious days of desperately pursuing Jesus were the beginning of what has turned out to be one of the most transformative seasons of my life.
God performed a sort of spiritual triage on my heart. He used those early mornings and late nights in His presence not only to comfort me, but to go after places in my heart that needed going after. Again and again He whispered over me His truth of who I am, how He had protected me, and of His deep love for me. I came to know him as my healer, strength and comforter in ways I’d never known before.
After several months passed, I got to taste some of the first fruits of the harvest of restoration God was bringing.
I was sitting in a crowded coffee shop across from a friend struggling with her own heartbreak over a deep desire she held for her life that it appeared God wasn’t fulfilling.
Her circumstances were different from mine but the ache of unmet longing, the fear her prayer may never be answered, and the temptation to doubt God’s goodness were the same. With tears brimming in her eyes she asked me, “Amanda, how do you trust God with the unmet desires of your heart? How do you cling to hope in the midst of such discouragement?”
In that holy, precious moment, I wanted to tell everyone around us to stop what they were doing and take off their shoes because this coffee shop was about to become holy ground! I had something rich and authentic to offer her. I knew this battle and I was further along in the fight.
I offered that lovely and vulnerable young woman the story of my own heartbreak. I told her of the nights I had cried out to Him to come for my heart and how beautifully and richly He answered my call and entered in with his healing and comfort. I did my best to point her towards the truth that no matter how things may look, she could cling to the knowledge that God is good and He is for her!
That coffee date was the beginning of my seeing a harvest of purpose and beauty out of my season of heartache and loss. It was the first glimpse of restoration of what the locusts had stolen.
What harvests have the locusts stolen in your life?
Maybe you thought your career would be more fulfilling than the vocation you find yourself in and years of hard work and effort feel wasted. You may question if you’ve ever really operated in your true gifts or fulfilled your calling. Maybe the business you always dreamed of starting never quite got off the ground or you were passed over for a promotion you thought was yours.
Or perhaps like me, your lost crops involve matters of the heart. It could be a betrayal in a relationship, a marriage gone cold, or the elusiveness of a dream you once held dear but now fear may never come to be. Whatever crops have withered in your life, God can redeem them! It’s a promise that is ours to claim and it's never too late.
I am realizing the compassion, empathy and wisdom I have to offer others after journeying through my own heartache is just the start of my personal harvest. The seeds God planted in my broken soil of loss are blossoming in my life in many beautiful ways and I sense the story is just starting to unfold!
Is it possible God is inviting you to surrender the pain of your stolen crops and lost years to Him?
I've come to see it is from a posture of surrender and looking to Him as the only one who can truly meet our deepest needs that He can till the soil of our life to bring forth a new harvest. A harvest more abundant than we may dare to dream.
Our God is a god who is always about the business of restoration and redemption. It’s the story of the bible from beginning to end. And it can be our story. It can be your story.
To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory!"