I wanted to get married at age 22. That’s how it had happened for my older sisters in Christ, and I thought the same was inevitable for me. The formula was simple—go to a Christian college, fall in love with a godly guy, and live purposefully ever after.
I had other dreams, yes, but marriage was what I truly wanted. So when I turned 22, having gone on only one awkward date throughout my whole college career, I descended into a long period of sadness, disillusionment, and questioning.
And when I say long, I mean 7 years long.
As each year passed with no man in sight, I questioned God’s goodness.
Father, why are you withholding my deepest desire?
Do you even see me?
Do you even care?
My twenties were far from what I expected—rather than being filled with romance and babies and ministry with my spouse, they were filled with clinical depression and loneliness and constant transition.
Joel 2:25 offers comfort to those living a life they didn’t expect, saying, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (ESV). I used to think Joel 2:25 was an apt description of my twenties: fruitful potential stripped bare by the ravenous locusts of depression, loneliness, and transition. But as I prayerfully reflect on the past decade, I realize that there’s more to my twenties than meets the human eye.
As I recently pondered Joel 2:25, the words washed over me:
“What if these aren’t the years the locusts have eaten, but the years He’s been pruning you to bear much fruit?”
I consider Jesus’ words in John 15, “…every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples (John 15:2,8).
As a follower of Jesus, my number one purpose, far beyond falling in love and getting married, is being His disciple and making Him known. He has fruit for me to bear, and He knew that to give me what I wanted in the moment wouldn’t build me into the woman equipped for the specific works He’d prepared in advance for me to do.
My circumstances haven’t changed, but my perspective has. Branches that once seemed stripped by ravenous locusts are now revealed as the loving work of the Gardener. As I see the fruit forming—the depression replaced with a joyful determination to give others’ hope, the loneliness transformed into a longing to welcome the outsider, it’s clear that He’s always known what He’s been doing.
In your waiting, in your longing, in the seasons where you feel stripped of strength and purpose, you can trust Him and His ways, however mysterious they are. He has plans for you that are vaster than you can imagine, a fruitfulness in store that will one day drive you to your knees in joyful worship.
Photo: Zbynek Burival, Unsplash