ODJ: “For God’s Sake!”

April 8, 2017 

READ: Joel 1:1-20 

Lord, help us! . . . Even the wild animals cry out to you (vv.19-20).

As I read the news account of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked Ecuador in 2016, the exclamation of one young man stood out: “For God’s sake, help me find my family!”

“For God’s sake . . .”

Those words can certainly be used wrongly—taking the Lord’s name in vain. Yet, while I have no way of knowing if the young man has a relationship with God, it occurred to me that we so often invoke His name when calamity strikes. And since we’re made in His image (Genesis 1:27), to cry out for the sake of others can truly be for His sake.

The plaintive cry of the young man reminds me of an exclamation from the lips of Joel: “Lord, help us!” (1:19). Judah, the prophet’s nation, had been decimated by two natural disasters—an overwhelming swarm of locusts had eaten everything in their path and a drought had turned what remained to dust (vv.6,12). The physical destruction—mirroring the nation’s spiritual condition—was devastating (vv.14-15).

Joel, whose name means “the Lord (Yahweh) is God”, had been called to deliver God’s solemn message to the people of Judah (vv.1-2). A two-pronged response was prescribed: Cry in grief and call out to God for relief.

These two reactions can lead to help and restoration when we confront pain. Perhaps someone close to us has taken their last breath. Or we’ve witnessed the ruthless slaughter of innocents. Or the disease has returned . . .

In genuine mourning and heartfelt prayer, we can draw close to God whose love “never ends”. But we may need to “lie face down in the dust” to once again find “hope at last” (Lamentations 3:22,29). For our sake, God meets us in our suffering and leads us through the fire and rubble to the joy that lies ahead.

—Tom Felten

365-day plan: 2 Samuel 13:20-39

Read Psalm 34:18 and think about how God meets us in our pain. 
What have been your responses to particularly painful moments in life? How can your genuine grief and heartfelt prayer be used by God to bring hope and transformation to you?