Couple that with the spiritual climate of our nation. We no longer recognize absolute truth. Christians are not only expected to tolerate, but support the sinful choices of others. Our hearts are broken by friends and family members who reject Christ to pursue addictive behaviors and alternative lifestyles that will leave them empty and scarred. So what is there to be joyful about?
Between 630 and 609 B.C., Habakkuk desperately tried to reach his people steeped in sin. The Babylonian invasion was imminent. Things looked pretty bleak, and yet Habakkuk chose to focus on the one reason he had to be joyful, no matter what the circumstances – He took joy in God. I guess that’s why I’ve been drawn to these verses lately. That’s why I’m memorizing them, clinging to them with every fiber of my being, drawing nourishment for my soul with these words:
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.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
Habakkuk not only inspires and rekindles my faith, but his testimony proves the fallibility of three things we’re tempted to trust in other than God: what we can see, what we’ve worked for, and our backup plan.
What We Can See
The first line of this passage says, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines…” In other words, I don’t see any evidence that God’s going to take care of me. That’s kind of where we’re at right now. Kelly’s been in construction for thirty years and he’s never seen such a dead market. We trust that God’s going to get us through and enable us to pay our bills, but we have to focus on the God we can’t see instead of the physical evidence in front of us.
You may be straining your eyes to see evidence that God is at work in your finances, work relationships, marriage, children, or church right now. You may feel like God has left you to your own devices. That’s when it takes faith to choose joy instead of despair. It requires moving our gaze from the physical to the unseen spiritual realm where our Savior reigns.
What We’ve Worked For
The second thing Habakkuk mentions is crop failure - “though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food.” How much effort goes into tending and pruning olive trees and plowing and planting fields? Just our little yard takes hours of backbreaking work. I get so discouraged when the slugs repeatedly devour my hydrangeas, birds steal our berries, and the rain drowns our tomatoes. Even more disheartening is when we have worked for spiritual fruit and time after time the enemy and distractions of this world come and steal it away.
If you have planted much, but harvested little, you know what I mean. Perhaps you have poured your love out on a child, only to reap the fruit of rebellion. Or you have purposefully trimmed the dead wood in your own life in order to build muscle. Yet instead of feeling stronger, you feel weak and wilted. Every farmer knows that for all his hard work, he still cannot control the outcome of his crops. So he does his best and waits to see what comes. If the sovereign Lord is our strength, there will eventually be a harvest.
Our Backup Plan
Agricultural farmers often keep a few animals as well. That way, if it’s a bad year in the field, you can sell off some of the stock or live off what they produce. But what if like in Habakkuk’s situation, “there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls”? My husband and I wonder the same thing as we repeatedly dip into savings to make ends meet. What if we use it all up, we wonder, what then?
Have you ever had a back up plan go belly up? A job, relationship, a home, savings plan, or skills you thought would get you through if things got rough. But you used it all up and had nothing else to draw on. That’s why Habakkuk rejoiced in God’s endless supply. When our strength is gone, He gives us energy to scale the mountains of life like a graceful deer.
I’m making every effort to anchor my joy in Jesus, no matter how bad things are in the world around me. He is all I need and He never changes. Even when I can’t see evidence that God is answering my prayers. Even when there seems to be no fruit for my labor. Even when there’s nothing in the barn to fall back on. I will be joyful in God my Savior!