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Suffering, Restoration, and Rest


I will restore (repay) to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.
-Joel 2:25 (ESV)

It is hard to rest when we focus on our losses, disappointments, and unfulfilled dreams; but we must.

What about all this lost time?  Why do we have to wait for our promises?  Not to have what we have dreamed about and been promised is a loss and we keep losing time in the time between the times.

But God is the great restorer.  The whole Bible is a story of restoration.  God is all about restoration.

While you wait, God is upgrading you in many areas; stretching you and maturing you: enlarging your heart.  God walks beside you in your losses, when you are betrayed, passed over, and hurt.  You are growing in faith, hope, and love.  You are learning deeper and deeper forgiveness and grace.  You must choose God a thousand times over bitterness.

The person called to healing ministry that prays for a thousand people without success or the person called to write or preach messages that writes or preaches a thousand times with little fruit; what is the difference inside of them after the one thousand compared to how they would be if they had immediate success?  The "one thousand step" people experience a lot of pain through the one thousand, a lot of death to self.  Finally, they are doing it (there could be a hundred other examples), for One.  They are doing it from and to love.  They are praying for the sick out of the Father's heart for the sick or writing and preaching out of God's love.

So, you might think that there's something wrong when your gift does not work or is not called upon; but God is implementing a larger, deeper, longer plan for you.

You will also notice people along your journey who seem to have had it easy.  They got married easily, had children easily, found a great job, or are living in prosperity, got healed, have succeeded in ministry; and the list goes on and on.  Two things: You don't know their suffering- God's unique plan for their lives which also involves their personal brokenness and you are called (like Peter in John 21:22) to follow him and not compare yourself to other people.  Jesus had to tell Peter that it's none of his business what he does with the other person.  You have to find your way as a unique child of God.  God has a perfect plan for you that very well may involve delays.

When God shows us his plans for us (Jer. 29:11), it is a destination that requires a journey and it is a finished thing that requires building, starting with a foundation and that all takes time.

"I will restore the years"

“It will strike you at once that the locusts did not eat the years: the locusts ate the fruits of the years’ labor, the harvests of the fields; so that the meaning of the restoration of the years must be the restoration of those fruits and of those harvests which the locusts consumed. 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 years over which you mourned. The fruits of wasted years may yet be yours.” (Charles Spurgeon)

In your in-between-time, you feel like you are dying.  Your patience is stretched and broken.  You are not resting well.  You are getting burned out, standing still.  You cry, "what's happening to me?"  Job went through a terrible time of suffering.  He lost everything except his wife, some friends, and God.  Job is a long, 42 chapter book in the Old Testament.  Job tries to figure out why.  Job's friends try to figure out why.  Job gets some bad advice from his friends and his wife.  Job never gets the answer to the why question.

In his loss and perplexity (suffering), Job cries out:

"Though He slay me, yet I will trust him."
-Job 13:15

This is what Oswald Chambers has to say about this statement:

  • God frequently has to knock the bottom out of your experience as His saint to get you in direct contact with Himself.
  • God wants you to understand that it is a life of faith, not a life of emotional enjoyment of His blessings.
  • The beginning of your life of faith was very narrow and intense, centered around a small amount of experience that had as much emotion as faith in it, and it was full of light and sweetness.
  • Then God withdrew His conscious blessings to teach you to “walk by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7) And you are worth much more to Him now than you were in your days of conscious delight with your thrilling testimony.
  • Faith by its very nature must be tested and tried and the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character must be proven as trustworthy in our own minds.
  • Faith being worked out into reality must experience times of unbroken isolation.
  • Never confuse the trial of faith with the ordinary discipline of life, because a great deal of what we call the trial of faith is the inevitable result of being alive.
  • Faith, as the Bible teaches it, is faith in God coming against everything that contradicts Him— a faith that says, “I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do.”
  • The highest and the greatest expression of faith in the whole Bible is— “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
-Oswald Chambers, My Utmost, June 20

"When it was beyond hope, he had faith in the hope (Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping-) that he would become the father of many nations, in keeping with the promise God spoke to him: That’s how many descendants you will have."

-Romans 4:18

Abraham was in the midst of a 25 year wait for his promise. In our instant culture, waiting this long seems unimaginable, but big things and big times sometime require big waits. Jason wrote this:

 ..at the ages of 75 and 65, long after their bodies were as good as dead, and they had settled in their hearts that they would never have kids, God shows up, tells Abraham to leave his father's household and head somewhere in "that" direction, and promised him the one thing Abraham and Sarah had been praying about for years: Abraham would be the father of many nations.

But the odds were stacked against them.

They had tried for decades to have a child, and were never able to conceive. They were leaving their home, the only place where they found support and encouragement and knew that people were praying for them. They were going to make a long journey to only God knew where, and they knew that Sarah was well beyond child-birthing years. The circumstances weren't looking too good.

But Abraham still believed.

In a place with no hope, in a situation where logic and science told them that God's promise would never come about, in circumstances that shouted that God didn't want to give Abraham and Sarah a son... Abraham dared to hope...

And received the promise of Isaac 25 years later.

Maybe, that promise you've been holding onto isn't dead just yet. Maybe that marriage you're believing for, that child you're praying for or that job you're looking for is going to happen. Maybe the deepest desires of your heart really will be yours.

Maybe, just maybe, the waiting is an opportunity to hope.

And so, my brothers and sisters, as you journey through your promise, waiting for God to bring about what He said He would, may you remember to hope. May you keep your eyes on Him rather than the circumstances. And may you, as you dare to hope that God will keep His promise to you, see that promise come to pass...

Even if it is 25 years in the making.
Daring to hope...Jason

Near the end of Abraham and Sarah's wait, they both laughed when God told each of them that the baby will be here in about a year.  I believe their laughs were a bit cynical or out of incredulity.  Then God said, "as a matter of fact, you are to name the child Isaac".  Isaac means "he laughs".  God will turn their incredulous laughter to joyous laughter.

If you have ever received a promise that you waited a long time for, you know that having the promise makes the wait worth it.  God really does restore those years that the locust figuratively ate in your life.  We can rest in peace as we wait with God, who has upgrade upon upgrade for us in our spiritual growth, preparing us to be the person he sees us as in the future.

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