Can God ever use me again?
These were the words on my lips after my divorce about ten years ago. You see, I’d grown up experiencing that once someone was divorced they couldn’t be a leader in the church. As a man who felt called by God to be a pastor (and was one at the time), my divorce signaled a double death for me: death of a marriage and death of my purpose.
I wondered if God could ever use me again. More than that—I knew God could use me should He desire—I wondered if the Lord wanted to ever use me again.
It’s a feeling the people of God have experienced in many ways at many times.
After the exile to Babylon ended (or started the process of ending) in 538 BC (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:20-12 and Ezra 1:1-11), the Israelites (more accurately, the Jewish people of the former southern kingdom of Judah) quickly discovered: the Lord’s punishing rod may have been laid aside but the ramifications of that punishing rod were still very much apparent.
And their request is often ours when we continue the process of moving forward after our failure. Read Psalm 85:4-7:
Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us. Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation.
The Psalms often capture the rawness of human emotion (it’s one reason I love them—they’re really, really real). Here is another example. The people were released from captivity. It marked the end of God’s disciplinary action towards them but when they returned to Jerusalem, it was a mess. They had a phenomenal amount of work to do (glance through the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah to get an idea).
Their questions are still echoed by us today: did God really forgive me?
Is He still angry at me? After all, what I’m still going through on the other side of His “forgiveness” still feels a lot like a different type of punishing rod.
Can He ever make my heart sing again? We know that apart from the Lord’s act of grace, we’re stuck in the shame and guilt of our sinfulness.
These are questions facing the people of God (of any time) whenever we seek restoration. As verse 4 prays, “Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us.”
Why do we need restoration if we’ve been forgiven? Isn’t that redundant? Not at all. When we break our fellowship with God because of our sinfulness, we exchange God’s blessings for that sin. And once we make that exchange, those blessings are gone. You can’t go back and “pick them up.”
We pray for restoration as God’s people for Him to do as He promised: make us fruitful again. Make us blessed again. Make us “blessable” again. Our discipline from Him has pruned us, but it is the Lord and the Lord alone that can make the spiritual spring arrive so we can blossom under the sun of new opportunities and blessings.
We ask for the Lord’s restoration and ask our gracious and merciful Lord to fulfill His promise in Joel 2:25-26:
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm— my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.”
You have been forgiven because of your confession. Now seek His restoration so you discover His purpose for you from this point onward.
And I can assure you…God wants to use you and can actually use your failure and pain as the greatest stepping stone in the process of forging you into who He created you to be. Take it from someone for whom the Lord has restored what “the locusts have eaten”.