Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends autumn and spring rains, as before.....I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten...
I believe these verses are about restoration - A big word - restoration. Means so much.
In many ways, we all carry hurts and losses that affect us deeply. They shape us more than we know - at times chiseling away at our hopes, dreams and how we see life. How we see the world for that matter. There can be so much the locusts seem to have eaten and destroyed - sometimes slowly, other times abruptly.
We long to have meaning, where we get to be happy, whole and unaffected by the circumstances that too often challenge the peace we long for. This journey can be a rough one, a messy one filled with so many unpredictable events that keep us guessing and wishing for a simpler life.
As dark as these thoughts may be, we need answers to the biggest challenges we face in our world. Not band aids but real answers that grow life, give us hope and beget resilience - day-to-day resilience. Where circumstances cease to rob us of our center where we feel joy and know we have purpose.
So much of the Old Testament focuses on God's love and mercy and His desire to bring Israel back to a place of pride and wholeness. Scripture continues to identify the remnant that God plans to bring back from captivity - eventually returning the land to Israel once hers. All this is restoration - the God who plans for the good of those He loves. The God who intends to bring justice, integrity and real identity to His people whom He loves and cherishes. He brings them back and out of captivity - not because they have become holy or earned it - but because that's what God does.
In all our challenges and losses, we have a God who wants to bring us back from captivity. From the prisons we step into that seem to limit our joy and happiness. From distant lands where we see no way back, no hope of finding safe ground or returning to what we once had.
There are so many faces to our God who restores:
- For the couple who has lost their baby to miscarriage, God feels that pain and loss - for death is no stranger to Him. He knows their child by name.
- For the woman who was molested, God offers a way out of shame and into a sense of worth. He holds her and sees her as a child who never has to worry that she's enough, that she's pure and that she's magnificently made.
- For the couple who has forgotten how to care for one another and are seeing their marriage unravel - God wants them to know deep love for each other and though they may have given up, He hasn't given up on them. He hopes they turn to Him.
- For the divorced, God's grace is as sufficient as for any other fallouts. His grace trumps their hurt, their blame and their sense of now being second rate. They are first rate in His eyes.
- For the poor, who may have no food to feed their children - God weeps and understands the poverty of body and soul. He will one day crown them with jewels and all the blessings that make them spiritual billionaires. The poor need to look to a place far away where they will be poor no longer (Heb. 11:6)
- For the elderly man or woman, living alone in a nursing home with no children to visit - God knows what it means to be alone and wants to inhabit their lives. He knocks on their door hoping they will ask Him in.
- To the orphan, widow or person without friends and family, God is a father to those lost and those who live alone (Psalm 68:5). So we cry "Abba Father."
- For the millionaire who found that money doesn't bring happiness and has lost his family in the process - God offers real wealth and honor back into his life. His unseen bank account is full, ready for withdrawal.
- For the single mother striving to make ends meet - God offers such compassion and lives along side her through the moments she feels most alone. She must have confidence in His presence and that He cares.
No matter what the situation, we are all broken at some level. We all need the pieces of our lives mended, sewed back together and made into something beautiful. We all need to know that there is purpose in suffering, that we are not alone and that God has what we need to be empowered to live a meaningful life. We all long to matter - that our life has counted for something - that we have been important in the scheme of things on this brief journey.
- He delivers us from the captivity of a fractured life and gives us wholeness. He does this ever so subtly by inhabiting our spirit and soul. He lives inside us. We must listen closely for His voice. He's there.
- He imparts great dignity. He sees us through the righteousness of His son- we are white as snow and free from chains of self-recrimination and shame. His Son's dignity is all ours. We must believe this and live like Kings and Queens (2 Cor. 5:21).
- He keeps reaching out to us with invitations to sit at His table and live in His presence. He asks that we "remain" in His presence, love, and care (John 15). We must live with Him moment by moment in our thoughts and emotions. We must stay in His space and walk with Him (Psalm 23).
- He rewards us when we simply surrender and depend on Him (James 4:6). Learning to surrender and trust Him becomes our true, life long journey. We must let it all go and give it to him.
- He makes Himself easy to be found - hoping we seek Him and desire to be with Him. We should seek him diligently (Hebrews 11:6). There is nothing more wonderful than finding Him.
- He loves us for all we are - without reservations - just for who we are. His love is ever present and everlasting (Jer. 31:3). We need to come to Him just as we are - not pretending to be someone else. Just as we are (Matt. 11:28-30).
- He always wants us close to Him - and He will never reject us. Never (John 6:37). Our meditations should center on knowing an infinite God wants to be near us and loves us that much.
- He gives us purpose and breathes meaning into our lives. We need to live in that purpose at all times (Gal. 2:20).
Restoration isn't something we finally get by right actions or by pleasing God. We are always whole in His presence. We can't restore ourselves. It is His presence that gives us everything, made possible by the death of Christ and He perpetually invites us into His space and life (Hebrews 4:15-16). Circumstances make us feel powerless and fractured at times. But we're always whole because there is no other way God sees us.
So much of restoration isn't really making us whole again. It's about knowing we're whole no matter what. Our experience may be that we find our way back, that our sanity is restored, our joy reclaimed at last. But in God's eyes, we were never without. Always His beloved. Always His joy. Always His crown. For He's the God of restoration.