When Life Leaves Us at Zero

Impossible situations, ones that don’t add up, are God’s specialty.

Mockingbird / 8.30.21

Another manic Monday? To help, here is a dose of Daily Grace, the new daily devotional from Mockingbird. This entry was written by Joshua Retterer:

I will repay you for the years
   that the swarming locust has eaten (Joel 2:25)

A news story from early 2020 reported on the swarms of locusts ravaging Kenya. One shocking factoid sticks in my head: a single swarm can contain 40 million locusts, which can eat 80 tons of food in a single day. That amount of food could feed 35,000 people. To make matters worse, many farmers not only lost the year’s harvest, but the seed for the following year’s harvest as well.

What is often forgotten, as one government official pointed out, is that the damage isn’t limited to the loss of food for people and their livestock but has a devastating impact on the entire ecosystem. The locusts consume everything that’s green, effectively rendering the landscape lifeless. Recovery is measured in years, maybe decades.

In the book of Joel, God’s people were experiencing successive plagues of locusts. Whether real insects or invading armies, the effect was the same—what one swarm missed, the next one ate. They weren’t simply going to tighten their belts and tough it out for the rest of the season; their future was dead. You can’t plant seeds that don’t exist. In plain language, zero plus zero still equals zero.

Many of us have felt similarly: helpless, with a side of bleak. We may have lost in love, had career setbacks, experienced ill health, or all of the above. The future seems to stretch out before us like a desert, lifeless and dry. We can’t undo what has been done, and it doesn’t feel like there is a “next.” This was the collective state of God’s people, and it was at that very moment that God promised to do the impossible. He promised to restore the people to the state they were in before the locusts took everything. Only one thing was certain: Something like that was going to take a miracle.

Impossible situations, ones that don’t add up, are God’s specialty. On the cross, Christ changed life’s arithmetic forever, when sin and death left us at zero—which is the exact percentage we are able to contribute to the endeavor. Jesus lived our poverty and pain, our hunger and thirst; that blood on the cross was real. It was there that the restoration of everything was done. Death can never undo it, and poverty can never take it away. In place of nothing, Christ gave us everything: a future forever with Him.

Featured image: Fredrik Lerneryd/Getty Images