Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV)
I came across this passage several years ago. Candidly, it did not make my list of the “Top Ten Verses That I Love.” In fact, I didn’t like reading it at all. It’s one of those passages of Scripture that walks around in your mind until it works its way down to your heart.
These verses are not really what we want to hear.
We want to enjoy the blessings . . . not endure the burdens.
We want fruit on our vines, crops in our field and livestock in our stalls . . . translated . . . we want money in our accounts, businesses growing, vocational recognition, nice cars to drive, a nice home with equity and all of our relationships to be perfectly, harmoniously happy. We have accepted that these things equate to God’s hand of blessing . . . God being pleased with our performance. Too often, we adopt a “spiritual Santa” understanding of God . . . if we are on the “nice list”, we get good gifts . . . and if we don’t get good gifts, we must be on the “naughty list”.
The prophet Habakkuk realized that prosperity was not the scale by which we measure God’s pleasure. With the failure of crops and the loss of sustaining livestock he responded with, “yet, I will rejoice in The Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior”. Habakkuk expressed and exercised joy.
As the children’s chorus says, “If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it”. Habakkuk knew it and his faced showed it.
Three thoughts to ponder . . .
It’s About The Giver. Remember the first verse most of us learn, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son . . .” His gifts are great . . . but, He’s greater than His gifts. When we are intent on His hand (His gifts), we may ignore His heart (The Giver). But, when we seek His heart, we always find His hand. As Habakkuk faced his economic fallout, his faith comes to the forefront. He writes these words, “God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer; He makes me tread on my high places.” (Hab 3:19 ESV). God often takes us to a higher place after we walk through our valleys so we can see our struggles from His perspective. The psalmist reminds us, “GOD IS [emphasis mine] our Refuge and Strength, a very present and well-proved help in trouble.” (Ps 46:1 AMP)
He is our perspective, our present help and our proven provider.
It’s About Gratitude. I can’t explain it, but there is a “heart change” that takes place when we replace our groanings with gratitude. Eugene Peterson, in The Message gives insight into Paul’s instruction, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” (Phil 4:6 7 MSG) Young writes, “A thankful attitude opens windows of heaven. As you look up with a grateful heart, you get glimpses of Glory through those windows.” Expressing gratitude paves the way to experiencing thankfulness. The disciple John encourages us, “And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.” (1 John 3:3 ESV)
It’s About Grace. Grace is a great gift. Paul reminds us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Eph 2:8 ESV) Grace reminds us of hope, of healing and even of Heaven. We cannot yet live in Heaven, but we can experience glimpses of our heavenly home. These foretastes of the heavenly revive our faith. Grace also reminds of help. Again, Paul encourages us with his own story of struggling. After begging God three times to extricate an excruciating burden, He writes, “and then He told me, ‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’” (2 Cor 12:9-10 MSG)
So, is money tight? Business momentum stalled? Professional isolation a part of life? Cars have a lot of miles and repairs are needed every month? Is the equity in your home evaporating? Have your retirement accounts . . . . well, retired? Are relationships fractured, stressed or non-existent?
These times may really be tough . . . rejoice in the Giver, express gratitude and find grace. He will take the frayed parts of your hopes and dreams, tie them together in a knot . . . .and, when you get to the end of your rope, you can hold on to the knot and to Him.
Take some time to be thankful for where you are . . . In His Hands.
For who you are . . . His chosen son.
And, what you have . . . A present and proven Help.