There’s a passage tucked away in the book of Joel that goes like this:
So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame.
Joel 2:25-26 NKJV
These verses weren’t written for me; they were written for the Israelites. But like so many passages of Scripture that were contextually intended for a different time, place, and people — I find comfort none the less in the heart of God portrayed to all people regardless of time or place — including me.
I often find myself looking around at other women, some a few years ahead, some a few years behind. I see women with more children than me or children who are older than mine. I see women deeply rooted in their faith and living out well what they believe. I see women growing businesses and ministries and impacting people for good. I see a lot of things I’m not doing or if I am doing them, I feel years and miles behind the women I’m watching.
I tend to puzzle things out. If something gets in my head, I don’t stop thinking about it until I’ve reached a satisfying end. So this whole thing about why some people seem to be so much further ahead in life — well, it’s really bothered me for a while now.
Are some people just naturally better at life than others? Were they born into better circumstances and opportunity or did they simply do more with what they were given? Does it matter how hard I work or will I always fall short of what I see?
I believe the answer to any of these questions could be yes — yes, some people are better at life than others, some are more talented and gifted, some are born into better circumstances and with that have more opportunity readily available to them. Though it’s hard to swallow, life really is not fair.
But still, there are plenty of examples of people who had nothing going for them and managed to make something of their life anyway. Sometimes the most successful people are those who’ve had to fight the hardest for what they want. So why do I flounder in comparison to those around me? Why are some women so capable and I always feel like I’m drowning in half the water they manage to swim in?
Sometimes I don’t like the conclusions my puzzling reaches. But sometimes, when you’ve thought something out to all its various ends, you have to accept hard answers you might not like and one part of that for me is accepting this:
You’re not where you want to be because you’ve wasted a lot of time.
You quit as quickly as you start.
You’d rather plan and dream and begin than work and continue and finish.
I was hoping for a different answer — like maybe one that didn’t lay the responsibility so squarely on my drooping shoulders. But here we are, puzzle solved and I’m the missing link to much of my own happiness and success.
Now don’t get me wrong — I don’t intend to leave God out of the equation and I don’t mean to say that my happiness and success are completely in my hands or the highest aim in my life regardless. Sometimes, you can be doing everything God is asking you to do by his grace and help and the road is still hard and the answer is still no. We grow by this and we get to find out if our relationship with God is actually with a genie who grants our wishes or a sovereign, loving God who has our best interest and his own glory at heart.
What I am saying is this: sometimes we are responsible for our own failures. We reap what we sow and sometimes that means a lean harvest. That’s kind of where I’m at right now and it’s a sobering reality to look in the eyes.
When you plant something, you don’t get to harvest fruit right away. Nothing blossoms or blooms and you are asked to trust that that seemingly dead seed splitting apart in the soil — hidden and unsure — is actually putting down lively roots that will bring forth life and beauty we can taste and see above ground.
I’m the kind of person who likes to go to the store and look at all the colorful images on the seed packets and dream about how they might look in my garden. I buy the seeds and draw up a plan for where the garden will be and probably post something on social media about this inspiring little endeavor.
And then I get bored with the work and the waiting and the process that goes into actually watching those seeds blossom into life. I fail to plant them all-together or neglect the work required to keep them alive once they’re in the ground. And here lies the analogy of so many of my hopes and dreams — seedlings, shallow roots, boredom that leads to neglect, a life perpetually distracted by the next shiniest thing.
And then I wonder why some women around me seem to have so much bounty and so much visible fruit for their labor. Are they just luckier than me or did they daily tend to deep roots even when no harvest could be seen?
Here’s where the locusts come in. I see all the time I’ve wasted and it feels like the years the locusts ate. The years I gave away to distraction and laziness and quitting half way. Sometimes it feels like I’m so far behind now that no matter what I plant or how faithfully I tend, I’ll never get my roots deep enough to make up for the lost time. I’m almost 33, ten years into my marriage and two children at my side.
But that passage doesn’t end with all the Israelites lost; it ends with a faithful God redeeming broken things as he does best. So when I’m discouraged and feel a failure, I speak this truth to myself:
God will meet with me today, where I am, through prayer and his word //
I wish I had dug deeply into God’s word years ago. I wish I had prayed and drawn close to the heart of God. But a failure to do these things in the past does not doom me to continued failure in the future. I can start right where I am today and God will meet me here.
God is the one who makes all things new //
Yes, you reap what you sow (Gal. 6:7-9). We are responsible for our actions and God requires that we be faithful stewards of what he entrusts (Matt. 25:14-30). But it is God — good, loving, sovereign God — who gives the harvest (1 Cor. 3:6-8). All my striving is not what propels me forward so much as the grace of God that takes my weak and failed attempts and offers all I can not create or deserve in return.
To be defeated is to doubt God; we must always be doing the next right thing and trust him with the results (Job 1:21). So yes, it’s disheartening to think about the years I’ve wasted. I see the fruit being harvested in other people’s lives and wish I had tended my own garden better over the years. But I’m thankful that “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is his faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).
The familiar chapter of Proverbs 31 ends with this verse:
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates (Prov. 31:31).
But this conclusion comes only after the thirty verses prior describing all the diligent and disciplined work she does each day throughout her life. So today I learn to keep my eye on the prize but first to dig deep and plant seeds. To tend and wait for fruit I cannot see. To be faithful in all the moments in between the exciting beginnings and slow ends.
May the Lord find me faithful.