There’s not a mom reading this who doesn’t know about Braxton-Hicks. Sometimes called practice contractions or false labor, they may sometimes hurt (or so I’m told) but the pain pales in comparison (or so I’m told) to what comes next when real labor begins.
In some ways the plague of locusts in Joel 1 was kind of like a Braxton-Hicks “day of the Lord.” The pain was real, but it paled in comparison to the pain that was to come. The real suffering would begin in chapter 2. . .
Joel 2:1-5—Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near, 2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations. 3 Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them. 4 Their appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like war horses they run. 5 As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle.
Through the centuries many armies have conquered Jerusalem. We’re not sure which of those Joel is referring to but whatever it is, God has a purpose in their pain. God is the one who will send this army.
Joel 2:11—The Lord utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it?
But why? Why would God allow suffering like this? He harms in order to heal.
Joel 2:12-13—“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.
Suffering is a means in the hand of God to call His wayward people to repentance. As Peter wrote, in 2 Peter 3:9—The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.