Today, in the first day of my challenge to spend time with Jesus, I came with a sense of gratitude but also anxiety. This “no-plan-b thing” can be tiring and take its toll on you… particularly when, like me, trusting does not come naturally. On top of that, my heart (like yours probably) has also been full of sorrow and concern for the state of the world and the nation, the hopelessness affecting so many in less fortunate places, angry elections, and of course the problem of terror.
As I asked God to share with me what was on his heart, I opened my Bible and started reading from the book of Joel. In chapter 1, Joel describes a situation beyond hopeless that affects his nation. Fear, desolation, and despair are in many ways similar to our own experience in our world today.
And like many around the world today, Joel cries out to God to have mercy in a time of utter hopelessness. The image he uses is of locusts devouring fields and pastures leaving little left. From that place he cries out to God for help.
You know… God’s response seems a little odd from a human perspective. He asks his people to fast and pray (2:12). As the prophet Joel puts it:
“Rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” (2:13)
Now, I don’t know about you, but when the situation is desperate I sort of really want God to actually do something. To fix the problem… or to help me come up with a solution to the problem. But God for some reason sees right past the issue. He knows our tendency to use things and people only while they are convenient to us. He knows we are prone to wanting quick solutions. So God demands a relationship with us… he wants our hearts.
The ancient people of Israel had the habit to give up their good clothes and put on sackcloth when they fasted. What God says through Joel is that he does not want them to surrender their garments (just what is outside), he wanted them to surrender their hearts! He did not want to provide superficial solutions, he wanted to be in relationship with them.
In Joel chapter 3, God promises that out of that relationship he would repay the years eaten by the locusts.
There is hope when we are connected to the Father. There is a way out. The way out is surrender… the way out is a living relationship with God.
The challenge this week is to spend time with Jesus asking him to share his heart with me. Today I learned that in times of fear and hopelessness God calls his people to be closer to him. The challenge of today is surrendering my heart to God.
“Lord Jesus, help me not to use you for quick fixes. Help me to surrender my heart so that I can be used by you to bring transformation to a broken world. Help me to stay close to you. Amen.”