I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…you shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you…
A beautiful set of verses in Joel. Verses filled with hope, with new life and new beginnings.
Yet I hate with all of my being that there were entire years that were eaten by locusts. I hate that people had to endure that pain and despair before they could reach the end point of being satisfied and praising God.
The memories of those years don’t go away.
And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before…And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He had also seven sons and three daughters…And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations. And Job died, an old man, and full of days.
Another beautiful set of verses in Job. Verses filled with hope, with new life and new beginnings.
Yet Job still endured the loss of all that he had. He still watched all of his children die and, as any of you who have lost children know all too well, no number of new children can ever take away the pain of losing those who came before.
It is a heart filled with mixed emotions, this kind of hope. It is joy and excitement over the beauty of what lies ahead and it is sorrow and grieving over what happened in the past.
This is life.
It is beauty that is tinged with sorrow. It is love that is colored by loss. All who live deeply are affected. None are exempt except for those who choose not to love.
God speaks beautiful words about our future with Him, words filled with promise, words filled with satisfaction and praise and joy. What do we do with this apparent contradiction? How do we get from this common suffering to a perfect life filled with perfect joy?
One option is that it is all a big hoax. None of this hope is true; it is all just a ruse to keep us from rebelling too hard against our lot in life.
Those who have known God long enough to catch a glimpse of His character, though, know that He is not given to such cruel jokes.
If you keep God in the picture, this God who is the very definition of love, than you are left with the answer that it is somehow all worth it. If God is who He says He is, if His words are trustworthy and true, then somehow the end is so brilliantly glorious that it will eclipse the darkness that came before.
Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. ~ C.S. Lewis
So what do we do with this hope that is so full of wildly contradicting emotions? I don’t understand how this sort of ending is at all possible when the sorrow seems so great. Yet like Abraham, we are asked to keep trusting in the face of apparent impossibility. Trusting that what God said to Abraham is truth for all: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”
On our best days we are able to trust that, in the end, we will be so seized by the sight of His face that we will fall to the ground at His feet in pure adoration. And all that came before will be as a vacuous mist that is chased away by the brilliant light and heat of the sun.