And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)
I’ve been thinking about loss the past few weeks. Piles of flood-damaged possessions line the streets of my town, a daily reminder that Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee caused more than $12 billion in damage. And the 10th anniversary of 9/11 emphasized the human loss, both American and non-American, over the last decade—almost 3,000 lives on that terrorist-blackened day and more than 250,000 lives in the wars that have followed.*
We naturally seek to replace what has been lost. According to the dictionary, replace means “to provide a substitute for or an equivalent of.” However, many times the substitute isn’t an equivalent. Newly purchased items cannot replace family photos and heirlooms washed away in clay-stained floodwaters. No matter how many other people come alongside the families of 9/11, no one can replace the loved one they lost that day.
The prophet Joel lived during a time of loss. A locust plague, destructive fires, and drought had devastated Israel’s agricultural economy. Joel wrote, “the fields are ruined, the ground is dried up, the grain is destroyed, . . . surely the joy of mankind is withered away” (1:10,12 NIV).
What comfort did Joel offer the grieving Israelites? He delivered God’s promise: “I will restore to you the years the swarming locust has eaten . . . you shall eat in plenty and be satisfied” (2:25-26 ESV).
The Hebrew word for “restore,” shalam, has several meanings: “to receive the reward,” “to be made whole,” “to be made secure,” and “to be at peace with.” This multifaceted promise addresses every aspect of our lives—mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.
On earth there are no equivalent replacements for our deepest losses. But God promises us this: “I will restore.” That is our hope as His children. In confidence we can move forward even with crushed hearts and empty hands. One day we’ll walk through heaven’s gates, the light of God’s glory will envelop us, and our restoration will be complete.
Joel is a short book, only three chapters. Read all of it this week. Make a list of the promises God spoke through his prophet. Which of them is most meaningful to you?
Psalm 71 was written by someone nearing the end of his life. What sorrows did he mention? What filled him with hope? What was his overall attitude toward life’s troubles? What should our attitude be?
Read another prophet’s words of hope in Zephaniah 3:17-20. How are his similar to Joel’s? How are they different? What words of hope can you share with someone today?
Denise K. Loock
*Note: Almost 300 non-Americans died on September 11. Over 200,000 non-Americans have died in the wars that have followed the 9/11 attacks.