“God’s promises are like stars– the darker the night, the brighter they shine.” –Jan Coleman, author of  After the Locusts.

In the book of Joel, a devastating event occurs, something which will be retold to subsequent generations:

Has anything like this happened  in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? Tell your children about it, Let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. Joel 1: 2-3

What sort of calamity could this be, what sort of story so incredulous that it could be recounted to future generations?

It was a plague of locusts. Can you imagine looking up and seeing the sky turn dark as millions of these insects descended upon the land you occupied? These insects are described as “chewing, swarming, crawling, and consuming” locusts. The scripture says that the fig tree branches were stripped white. The result of the plague was utter loss and devastation. The people of this agricultural society had lost everything– their crops, grass for their animals, their livelihood. Nothing green was left. They looked upon a barren wasteland.

Did you know there are 80 different kinds of locusts?  They belong to the grasshopper family. A typical swarm can be 30 miles long and 5 miles wide, and even today swarms affect Australia and Africa.

After facing the devastation of such a loss, we can wonder how those in Judah felt. Their dreams were shattered. Their hopes– gnawed away by the locusts. What would become of them now? Their dreams and hopes of the future? How would they survive?

My Bible commentary suggests that Joash could have been the king at the time. While it’s not certain, it is possible. Joash was crowned king at the tender age of 7. Humor me for a moment, as we ponder what a seven year old king might be thinking while watching a swarm of locusts descend upon the land.

Now I have two boys, around Joash’s age, and both like to catch bugs. In fact, my youngest thinks of insects as “pets”.  He even likes the pesky orange Asian beetles that seem to be everywhere in our area!  So I can imagine, if Joash was like any current day typical seven year old, he may have tried to catch a few of the insects himself and put them in a place where he could observe them for a while. Or, perhaps young Joash, after the initial  excitement, may have been affected by the horror-stricken faces of the adults around him, and also succumbed to fear, helplessness, and disbelief. One thing is certain: a plague of locusts (or other natural disaster) is beyond the power and control of any earthly king, no matter his age.

But not for an omnipotent God. He had an answer for them. He didn’t leave them destitute, alone, holding fistfuls of dirt in their hands. He gave them a promise.

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten… Joel 2:25

“I will restore to you the years…”– what a beautiful promise, from the only One who can even make such a claim and fulfill it. God’s promise to the people of Judah was that he would “restore the years”! That promise is magnificent to comprehend.

You see, today, we face a different breed of locust. We face broken marriages, sudden death, disease, financial ruin, constant pain, depression, job loss, addiction… and the list can go on. The bugs of today enjoy a feast, and then leave us behind– breathless, panting, without hope, and wondering why. We are blindsided; we didn’t even know these little bugs were hatching and growing and coming toward us. We could see the devastation in others’ lives, but we didn’t see what destruction could be heading our way.

Have the locusts come and eaten in your life? I could share some stories. In fact, for some of us, we may feel as if some circumstances are so shocking, so debilitating, it may seem as if the locusts have eaten way more than their share, or perhaps left nothing behind that we can see with our human eyes.

But the promise to us is the same as it was to the people in Joel’s day:  “God will restore the years the locusts have eaten”! I don’t know about you, but that promise gives me hope. Hope I need to hear. While the locusts may have eaten away, God can restore what the locusts have taken. God can take the loss, the pain, if we allow Him, and transform it into a garden of plenty, a place where hope and joy bloom in full glory, a place where others can come and find encouragement and hope as well. God can take the all the broken places in our hearts and plant something new– the more breaks, the more room for new growth. God says,

Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and new oil, and you will be satisfied with them.”  Joel 2:19

God can take the pain, the devastation, the loss and transform them into something new, if we let him. It doesn’t mean it won’t hurt. It will hurt. But we will be satisfied.

Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  Isaiah 43: 19

God is constantly at work, and friend, I pray you take the promise of Joel 2:25 to heart. Someone shared that verse with me, and it gave me an abundance of hope. I pray it does the same for you.