Restoration is a major trend in our society. People take old beat up motorcycles and restore them to their original glory; turn rusty classic cars into collector’s pieces; and replace green Formica countertops and wallpaper with quartz and smooth greige walls. At Eastside we just restored a campus in Bellflower so that it can serve its community like it used to.
Over time, almost everything needs to be restored: cars, houses, kitchens, churches, and… us, because nobody can get through life without going through some brokenness. Over the next few weeks we’re going to consider how God can restore our broken dreams, broken confidence, and broken lives.
Have you ever undertaken a restoration project? Share it with the group.
A broken heart is unreturned love. You loved, and you were hurt. You risked in a relationship, and you were burned. You trusted, and you were betrayed.
Max Lucado writes about walking through an old cemetery and coming across the tombstone that marked the body of Grace Llewellen Smith. No date of birth was listed, no date of death, just the names of her two husbands and this sad epitaph:
Sleeps, but rests not. Loved, but was loved not. Tried to please, but pleased not. Died as she lived—alone.
Think of those words, “Loved, but was loved not” and picture the long nights, the empty bed, the silence. No response to messages left. No return to letters written. No love exchanged for love given.
When is a time in your life that you felt like this?
Have a volunteer read Joel 1:4.
Joel is an Old Testament prophet who wrote to people who were farmers and whose perfect dream was a field full of lush crops, whose ideal world was to sit on the front porch and look out over their land and see it filled with healthy green plants, ripening juicy fruit on the trees in the orchard, fields bursting with grain and bins overflowing with produce. That was their picture of the good life, the field of dreams.
But the prophet Joel comes along and describes everyone’s absolute worst nightmare – a horrific invasion of locusts that come in and devour absolutely everything. Locusts can eat their own body weight in a 24-hour period. These guys were ravenous, and there were a lot of them.
Just one female locust that lays her eggs in June, can have 18 million living descendants in October. A swarm can contain up to 10 billion insects that create a deafening noise like a jet engine with their buzzing wings and crunching jaws. They get into houses through cracks and chimneys. You can’t go outside. They eat crops and devour the land. When they die they give off a revolting stench, and their bodies breed typhus and other diseases in animals and humans. It’s like a living hell.
Even today areas around the world that have the potential for a locust outbreak are monitored by international agencies using satellite technology to spot the swarms. They then send out airplanes with insecticides to ward the locusts off.
Joel describes an onslaught of a ginormous swarm of these locusts—literally a plague of Biblical proportion—which is the most devastating and overwhelming thing imaginable to these farmers who dream of having lush crops and fruit trees.
What “swarm of locusts” have you experienced? A round of layoffs at work? The business you started going belly up?
Have a volunteer read Joel 2:25.
Joel chapter 2 paints a picture where there’s nothing left but the dead carcasses of locusts everywhere, stinking to high heaven. It’s looks hopeless, but Joel says this devastated field you are looking at is God’s specialty.
God sends the rains to wash away the dead locusts and heal the earth, nutrients rise up in the soil, and things begin to green up again. And then God makes this bold and wonderful promise, “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust…”
We have a God who can take the wasted years, the damaged years, the hurtful years, the unfaithful years, the abusive years, the addicted years, and even the biggest failures of our lives and restore and redeem to us the years that the locusts have eaten!
In his sermon, Gene shared the story of his divorce:
As you would guess one of the toughest and most fearful seasons of my life was back in the 80’s when I was going through my heartbreak and divorce. It was a very dark time. A very alone time.
And on top of it, I was a pastor, going through a divorce. And I thought what church would want a pastor who had been through a divorce? I thought I had not only lost my marriage, my wife…but in a very real and practical sense my job, my income, my house, my car.
I felt my life was ruined. God could never use me again and most of all would never even want me. It was hard to see any way out, any light at the end of the tunnel.
But I way underestimated God and his ability to restore what the locust had eaten. You see what I didn’t know in those moments is that 4 years later I would marry the most beautiful girl in the world named Barbara who had been through a similar kind of hurt.
What I didn’t know is that my church family would stand with me and love and forgive me.
What I didn’t know is that I would grow through that time in ways that I wouldn’t otherwise.
What I didn’t know is how faithful God would be to me.
Barbara and I returned last Monday from a trip to Hawaii which was a belated celebration of our 25th anniversary. And here’s what we both can tell you: we didn’t know it at the time, but God has restored the years that the locust had eaten!
When is a time in your life that you have experienced God’s restoration?
In what area of your life now are you longing for God’s restoration?
Have a volunteer read Psalm 6:3.
The question on the mind of anyone who is in the midst of a season of brokenness is usually, “How long will this last?”
It’s a question King David, the author of the sixth Psalm, asked thousands of years ago in a season of brokenness.
No one knows the answer to the “How long?” question, but it’s usually not solved overnight but over time. Perhaps the better question to ask is, “What now?” What can I learn, how can I grow, what should I do in response to this season of brokenness?
What is a lesson you’ve learned as the result of a difficult season of life?
Lesson #1: Don’t Pull Out of Life
None of us wants to be hurt, so when we are, our first impulse is to pull back into a shell so we can be protected and never ever hurt again. Love by its very nature is a risk, but by withdrawing from love we risk even more.
That doesn’t mean you bounce back into another relationship after a divorce or the loss of a loved one. Dating and remarriage will not cure your grief, so be patient while you grieve.
Experts say that after a divorce or a death it takes two years before your emotions settle down to become stable again.
One of the common mistakes people often make after someone has broken their heart is to jump right into another relationship or marriage, and almost without exception, it ends in disaster.
But it is important to invest in friendships in other healthy environments like a small group or a changemaker team, to get in a support and care group like a Divorce Care or Grief Share or Celebrate Recovery in your community. We can’t weather life’s storms, we can’t get through the swarm of locusts on our own.
Who are the people in your life who can help you weather the storm?
Lesson #2: Disinfect the Wound
When you’ve been physically cut or wounded or gashed, what’s the first thing they do at the emergency room or doctor’s office? They disinfect the wound, because the infection can be worse than the wound.
When we’ve been hurt or wounded by someone our natural tendency is to hurt them back and to hold onto our hurts, and when you hold on to hurts they develop into the self-destructive diseases of bitterness, resentment, and hate.
Have a volunteer read Ephesians 4:31-32.
Do people always deserve to be forgiven? No, but we didn’t deserve to be forgiven by God either, and when we forgive we free ourselves. If you hold on to hurt, it will turn into hate, and it’s incredibly destructive to you and all your relationships.
Who do you need to forgive?
Lesson #3: Allow God to Work in You During this Season
Brokenness tends to be one of the greatest schools of higher education that you ever attend, and God uses it to reshape us through the experience.
Gene shared that in the brokenness of his divorce he learned that when you lose everything that’s important to, but you still have Jesus Christ, you have enough. He learned the importance of truth telling in relationships, even at the expense of pain and facing our own faults. He learned the importance of balance in life, and he learned to have a sensitivity for people crushed by their own broken experiences.
The experience was still painful, but by allowing God to work in him, Gene was able to bring meaning to the pain he encountered.
What do you think God might want you to learn in your current season of life?
Break up into groups of 2-3 and pray for the needs expressed throughout this week’s discussion. Commit to following up with each other midweek to see how things are going and continue to pray for each other.