Money can be restored. Property can be restored—broken-down cars, stripped painting, old houses. Relationships can be restored. But one thing that can never be restored is time. Time flies and it does not return. Years pass and we never get them back.

Yet God promises the impossible: “I will restore the years that the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). The immediate meaning of this promise is clear. God’s people had suffered the complete destruction of their entire harvest through swarms of locusts that marched like an insect army through the fields, destroying the crops, multiplying their number as they went.

For four consecutive years, the harvest was completely wiped out. God’s people were brought to their knees in more ways than one. But “the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people.” God said, “Behold I am sending to you grain, wine and oil, and you will be satisfied (Joel 2:18-19).

In the coming years, God said, their fields would yield an abundance that would make up for what had been lost: “The threshing floor shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. . . . You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied” (Joel 2:24, 26).

This wonderful promise for those people meant that years of abundant harvests would follow the years of desolation brought about by the locusts. 

But God has also put this promise in the Bible for us today. 

Lost Years of Our Lives

What do “lost years” look like for us? Lost years (or locust years) are years that you can’t get back, and they come in many varieties.

Lost years are fruitless years. A lot of hard work was done in the years the locusts had eaten. After everything was destroyed, the people must have thought, All this work and what do I have to show for it? Some of you know this pain in the world of business—a failed venture, a bad investment, a misguided policy, and all the effort that you put in day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year led only to massive disappointment. You think, What has come of all my time and all my effort? 

Lost years are painful years. I’m thinking of those who have lost a loved one. You had plans for the future, but now you fear the coming years may be empty. I’m thinking also of those who live with illness in the body or the mind. You assumed that you would always be able to do what you used to do. You have to find a way to live with the disappointment that you cannot.

Lost years are selfish years. Here’s a story that’s been repeated thousands of times. There’s a person (let’s call him Jim) who made a commitment to Christ, but it didn’t run deep. Faith in Jesus was a slice of the big pie of his busy life, filled with all the things that Jim wanted to pursue. Then one day, God gets hold of Jim. He is spiritually awakened. He says to himself, What in the world have I been doing? There’s no substance in my life. I really want it to count for Christ. I want to live in the power of the Spirit. I want to make a difference in the world, but the locusts have eaten half my life! I’ve wasted my years on myself.

Lost years are loveless years. A division comes to a family, alienating loved ones. Children grow up, and those years cannot be recovered. A marriage quietly endures in which love has been burning low for many years. You see a couple who are really in love, and you say, “I wish I could be loved like that.” Or you have not yet met the person you would like to meet. It feels like the years are moving on. You can never get them back. The locusts have eaten them.

Lost years are rebellious years. Perhaps you grew up with many blessings, but in your heart you wanted to rebel. You didn’t fully understand this urge, but you gave yourself to it. Instead of bringing you pleasure, rebellion brought you pain. Now you look back on those years with regret, the years that the locusts have eaten.

Lost years are misdirected years. The path you chose in your career or at college was a dead end. You just didn’t fit. Often in your mind, and sometimes in your conversation, you say, “How did I end up here? If only. . . . If only I had made that move. . . . If only I had taken that opportunity. . . . If only I had chosen a different path.” But the moment has passed. It’s gone. You can’t go back to it. You’re left with locust years.

Lost years are Christ-less years. All Christ-less years are locust years. This point is worth thinking about if you have not yet made a commitment to Christ. Ask anyone who came to faith in Christ later in life, and they will tell you that they wish they’d come to Christ sooner than they did: “How much foolishness I would have avoided. How much more good might have been done through my life.” 

How God Restores Lost Years

Take heart! There is hope, because God can restore your lost, locust years. He does so in three ways. 

God can restore lost years by deepening your communion with Christ. “You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God” (Joel 2:27). These people, who have endured so much, enjoy a communion with the Lord that is far greater than anything they had ever known before in their religious lives. Christ can restore lost years by deepening your fellowship with him.

Why not ask him for this? Tell him, “Lord, I have spent too many years without you, too many years at a distance from you. Fill my heart with love and gratitude for Christ. Let the loss of these years make my love for Christ greater than it would ever have been. Restore to me the years the locusts have eaten. “

God can restore lost years by multiplying your fruitfulness. The harvests for these people had been wiped out for four years, but God restored the years that the locusts had eaten by giving bumper harvests. 

This provision makes me think about the parable where Jesus spoke about a harvest that could be 30-, 60-, or 100-fold. There’s a huge difference between these three harvests. Three years at 100-fold is as much fruit as a decade at 30-fold.

Why not ask him for this? “Lord, the locusts have eaten too many years of our lives. You have called us as your disciples to bear fruit that will last. Too many fruitless years have passed. Now Lord, we ask of you, give us some years now in which more lasting fruit will be born than in all of our years of small harvests.”

God can restore lost years by bringing long-term gain from short-term loss. The effect of these great trials in your life will be that “the tested genuineness of your faith . . . may result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). The praise, glory, and honor go to Christ because his power guarded you and kept you through the hardest years of your life.

Thinking about “years that the locust has eaten,” years that have been taken, I think of something Isaiah said about our Lord Jesus: “He was cut off out of the land of the living” (Isaiah 53:8).

Here was the Lord Jesus in the prime of life. He was three years into his ministry at 33 years old. You would think that a man launching a new enterprise at the age of 33 has everything in front of him. But Isaiah says, “He was cut off.” He was cut off because he came under the judgment of God, not for his own sins—because he had none—but for ours.

Our sins, our grief, our sorrows, were laid on him. Our judgment fell on him. Our locusts swarmed all over him. The life of God’s tender shoot was “cut off.” Then, on the third day, the Son of God rose in the power of an eternal life. He offers himself to you, and he says what no one else can ever say: “I will restore the years that the locusts have eaten.”

Colin Smith is senior pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. For more resources by Colin Smith visit Unlocking the Bible, where you can request a free sample of the daily devotional, listen to the program, or browse other gospel- centered, Christ-exalting resources. You can follow Colin on Twitter.

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