When the Lord takes pity on your suffering

In 2002, my wife and I bought a house. For a couple months before we moved in, we would work on it and make updates and repairs. One afternoon while I was working on the landscaping, two kids came riding through my yard on their bikes. It seemed weird, but I didn't say anything. As they made it to the street, one of the kids tried turning his bike around in a spot where the road needed to be repaved. He immediately fell, and the impact ripped his ankle open so badly that it exposed his bones.

When I saw what took place, I immediately called for emergency services and rushed to help the boy. While we waited for an ambulance to arrive, I kept trying to get him to focus on my face and stop looking at his ankle. He was in a lot of pain, and he was starting to panic because it was a very bad injury. Even though he had been riding his bike where he shouldn't be riding, and making careless decisions about how to maneuver it on uneven pavement, I still felt compassion for him and did everything I could to help him.

Joel 2:18-27 gives us an example of God doing that for His people on an even deeper level. Our Lord takes pity on our suffering, reaches into our situation, and offers Himself to us as the only lasting solution.

I. Where can true satisfaction be found?

Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people. The Lord answered and said to his people, “Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.

“I will remove the northerner far from you, and drive him into a parched and desolate land, his vanguard into the eastern sea, and his rear guard into the western sea; the stench and foul smell of him will rise, for he has done great things.
— Joel 2:18-20, ESV

Up to this point in the book of Joel, we've seen the people of Judah experiencing the consequences of hardening their hearts toward the Lord. The Lord had blessed them with a beautiful land, material blessings, and spiritual blessings, but instead of revering Him and living with gratefulness toward Him, they went their own way. So the Lord sent a plague of locusts to ravage the land and break their idolatrous hearts. He did this to drive them to a place of repentance, and His hand of discipline succeeded at this objective.

Now, as they displayed godly sorrow over their sins, the Lord assured them that they would once again experience His blessings. He would bless them spiritually, nationally, and materially. These events in the lives of the people of Judah give us a foretaste of the future tribulation that will come upon this earth when the Lord judges sin, then follows that up with the return of Christ to this earth when He will rule and establish true peace.

In the meantime, as we look forward to the future earthly reign of Christ, we have the privilege to experience His reign in our lives at present. And just as the Lord promised to "satisfy" the people of Judah, our hearts can experience ultimate peace and satisfaction through Christ.

Recently, after an evening leadership meeting at our church, a man wandered into our building because he didn't know where else to go. He had just walked out of a drug rehab facility where he was receiving some help, and he was very open with us about his struggles. He told us about the first time he tried drugs, what was going on in his life at the time, and what he's been wrestling with since. He also admitted that he keeps returning to his addiction to escape his pain and sorrow, but the drugs keep making his problems worse. They aren't satisfying the deepest longing of his soul. In that moment, I shared the truth of the gospel with him, and encouraged him to find the satisfaction and peace he's looking for in Jesus.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
— John 4:13-14, ESV

True and lasting satisfaction for the greatest thirst of our soul can only be found through Jesus. He is where true satisfaction is found.

II. Is the future something we need to fear?

“Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and vine give their full yield.

“Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.
— Joel 2:21-23, ESV

Imagine living in the time when Joel prophesied these words. The land had been made desolate and bare. People were starving. The entire nation was in the midst of intense grieving. But through the words given to Joel, the Lord was encouraging His people to look up and look forward. He wanted them to see something by faith before they could see it with their eyes. The Lord was going to restore the pastures, trees, and vines. He was going to supply abundant rain once again and make Judah lush and fruitful.

The Lord delights in the presence of faith in our lives. He delights to see us take a break from walking by sight. He delights to show us things our natural sight could never see, but the spiritual sight He grants is a divine work of the Holy Spirit. Our natural inclination is often to react to thoughts of the future with fear.

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,”
— Ephesians 1:16-18, ESV

Growing up during the era of the Cold War, I was frequently reminded of the conflict the United States was having with the Soviet Union. In the midst of the conflict, even though we were children, we were often told about the possibility of nuclear war. So as a child I would sometimes become fearful of an atomic bomb being sent across the ocean on a missile, and blowing us up or triggering a chain reaction of retaliatory bombs that would destroy the earth. Eventually, as I grew older and became more acquainted with Scripture and its descriptions of the future, my fears subsided.

The Lord holds the future securely in His hands. If you truly know Christ, the future is not something you need to fear. This is true both in the short-term and in the long-term.

III. How does the Lord restore years that seem lost or wasted?

The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.  I will restore 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 2:24-25, ESV

In these verses, the Lord continues to paint a picture of future restoration for the people of Judah. The land that was destroyed would be restored. The crops that had been eaten by the locusts would grow again. The people would be blessed not only with food to eat today, but with extra food to share or store in reserve.

The Lord told them that He would restore the years that seemed lost or wasted. This is such a joyful promise, and we will see this ultimately accomplished when, in the fullness of time, Heaven and earth are recreated, never to be corrupted by sin again.

I heard a story some time ago about a woman who grew up not knowing her mother. Later in life, through a chain of circumstances, they were reunited and blessed with years of friendship and fellowship. The Lord blessed them with years of joy that made the years of separation seem like a distant memory.

I love what J. Vernon McGee, the late pastor and Bible teacher, once said about the ways in which the Lord can restore years that seemed lost...

I don't know about you, but I can say that I am not satisfied with my life down here. I have never preached the sermon I have wanted to preach -- I wish I could do it... I have never been the husband that I have really wanted to be... Neither have I been the father that I wanted to be. I have never really been the man that I have wanted to be. That is why I love Revelation 21:5: "...Behold, I make all things new...."

My friend, that will really make heaven heaven for a lot of us. We will be able to do the things and be the person that we have wanted to be down here. Oh, to be free from the hindrances of circumstances, of sin, of the environment, and even of heredity. What a glorious experience to be free of all this and to be in the presence of Christ! He will make all things new. He will restore the years that the locusts have eaten. -Thru the Bible, Vol. III, p. 672

IV. What foundational truth does the Lord want us to know?

“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.  You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame.”
— Joel 2:26-27, ESV

The Lord promised the people of Judah that the day was again coming when they would eat in plenty and be satisfied. This was great news for starving people. The Lord was going to remove their sorrow and shame, and He was going to teach them a foundational truth that we need to hold onto as well. The Lord wanted them to be confident in the fact that He is, "the Lord your God and there is none else."

The Lord takes pity on our suffering, and we can be grateful for that fact. But in the midst of dwelling on this reminder today, lets also remember that veering from this foundational truth, (the fact that the Lord is God), invites needless suffering to return into our lives.

As we read those words from Joel's book, can we say that we have no other God but the Lord? Are our hearts finding the satisfaction we seek in Jesus, or are we still searching for someone or something else? If you've been searching, let your heart be satisfied today with the peace, rest, and joy it will only find though knowing Jesus.

© John Stange, 2019