“…and rend your heart and not your garments.”-Joel 2:13
Rend. The dictionary defines rend as: to remove from place by violence (Miriam-Webster Dictionary). Rending is a Jewish custom that involves violently tearing clothing at the news of a death. It is an expression of grief and mourning and it is meant to allow for a release of anger that doesn’t harm anyone.
When I say the word, rend, it feels like a kind word and it’s most definitely not. Right before this verse, God has used Joel to tell His people to return to Him with fasting, weeping and mourning. This is clearly not a joyous reunion. The people have turned away from God and decided that they are better able to live life without Him. They have allowed other gods hold places of authority in their lives and God is rightly upset. This plea is directly from God that His people would come back, give up their sin-filled lives and love and follow Him again before there is any punishment.
This returning isn’t going to be easy. It isn’t going to be simple. God is directing His people to return with fasting, weeping, mourning and rending, it is a safe bet to say that there is going to be pain and heartache involved with this return. They have set up new habits and new rituals and fitting God back into their lives is going to mean giving those up. Even though they are sin and hurting the people, it is still going to be a hard process.
I completely understand where these people are at in their plight. They’ve turned so far away from God and filled their lives with sin, shame and pain, that they can’t see the benefit initially in turning back to God because the pain is in the forefront of their minds. There was a time in my life where I was so disillusioned with God and how He was working in my life, that I turned to things like alcohol and partying to sooth my pain. For over a year I begged God on a regular basis to release me from this life I had created and every time I asked, he said, “rend your heart, return to me with fasting, weeping and mourning and I’ll greet you with love and compassion”. I couldn’t see past the pain that was consuming me far enough to see that it was best to return. All I could think about was the pain of giving up my sin.
God used an arrest for a suspicion of a DUI and a health issue to get my attention and turn me around. He had to give me a foreshadowing of what was headed my way…jail, loss of my family, loss of my health. I was faced with a choice point: turn back to God and go through the pain of losing my sinful state or keep going in the direction I was headed and risk losing my life. And now, when I look at it from the outside, it seems like a no-brainer; TURN BACK! But in the midst, it was terrifying to trust God to first of receive me back, and secondly to restore me.
Once I said yes to God, rended my heart, tore myself violently away from alcohol and people who were the wrong people to have in my life, He rushed in and gathered me up in His amazing arms. He restored my physical health. He allowed me to get a lesser sentence and not a DUI. He released me from addiction. He set me on a path that has led me right here and I am so blessed, honored and humbled to be used by Him.
So now the question is for you…what do you need to rend in your heart before God and allow Him to remove so that you can live close to Him again? Are you willing to travel through the fasting, weeping and mourning in order to return to God? This is not a 10-step plan I’m inviting you to, it’s a violent removal of whatever is standing between you and God. And actually, I’m not the one inviting, God is. Will you go with Him and step into an unchained life?
If you need a prayer partner, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.