“I will redeem the years that the locusts have taken!”
That’s one of my favorite mysterious promises from the Old Testament of the Bible. It comes from the ancient prophet Joel, recorded in Joel 2:25.
Locusts, when they swarm, are considered by many to be the world’s most devastating pests. Their swarms can reach densities of 80 million per square kilometer. A horde of locusts this large can consume food equivalent to that eaten by 35,000 people a day! The people of East Africa have had to deal with this level of devastation from the end of 2019 into 2020.
Many of us have had to deal with that metaphoric level of devastation in our lives from any one of a number of painful sources. Debilitating personal illness can lay ruin to a life. Earth shattering losses may leave us incapacitated. Broken relationships sometimes cripple normal living. Personal failure can leave us in desolation.
So many of us look back on our lives and all we see are stumps of vegetation left behind by the swarm. The idea of a life of promise feels cruel. Talk of calling and destiny seems ridiculously out of reach. We wonder “how can any good thing come out of this life?”
I believe that ancient prophetic word is just waiting to be applied to every life that has been ransacked by agony. The years “that the locusts have taken” can be redeemed! As a matter of fact, the very struggle that some of us have had to endure can be leveraged into our destiny.
Another ancient promise, this time from the New Testament of the Bible, paints a wonderful picture of how that happens. Here’s my paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7. The comfort we receive through our suffering is the very same comfort we then deliver to others who have found themselves in a similar tough place.
In our pain, we become experts in living through it. If we choose, we can become committed to helping others navigate the same pain. This can become a calling. When sufferers take others by the hand and walk them through their tragedy…that’s when the years that the locusts had taken are redeemed!
I have seen this time and time again.
A woman who was unable to have children of her own became a surrogate mother to young women who had no mom in their life.
A young man who experienced the pain of financial struggle growing up has become a wise financial advisor to his friends and acquaintances.
A young lady who was devastated by abuse and betrayal as a teen now sees her calling as helping girls work through their own self-identity issues.
Just this week the world was shocked to learn of the untimely death of Chadwick Boseman, the young brilliant actor best known for his portrayal of the Black Panther. He clearly knew joy and success, but he also experienced great suffering. Listen to his musings on struggle and purpose from his 2018 address at his alma mater, Howard University.
“Sometimes you need to get knocked down before you can really figure out what your fight is and how you need to fight it. Whatever you choose for a career path, remember, the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.” He went on to say that when he challenged the notion that his personal struggles should relegate him to a life of no hope, “a different path opened up for me, the path to my destiny.”
For Chadwick, the years that the locusts had taken had been redeemed. And that young man’s legacy will be built upon for many years.
The same can be said for you. Whatever your pain, your tragedy, your loss or your struggle, it could be redeemed in the life of someone else who is just waiting for the comfort that only you can bring.
That is your calling.