“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
We all go through pressures and difficulties in life. Deadline pressures, sickness, business failures, financial struggles and so on. We don’t know what to do? How are we to respond? Don’t squeeze your hands in despair—instead, lift them, look to the Lord and trust Him. Make your bold declaration of trust, and let God take it from there! Even among suffering and loss, Habakkuk has learned that he can trust God, and with that trust, comes great joy—not in circumstances but in God himself. Whatever the situation, when you can’t do anything else, you praise the Lord. Heaven can interpret what you need and take it from there. The book of Habakkuk follows the journey of the prophet through his earnest prayers, as he wrestles with God’s seeming silence and asks if God truly cares. Yet the story ends with Habakkuk able to rest in the ways of God and trust God no matter what circumstances may emerge. “Habakkuk’s book begins with an interrogation of God but ends as an intercession to God. What begins with a question mark ends in an exclamation point” The book begins with a prayer of despair and ends with a confession of hope and faith. Worry is transformed into worship. Fear turns to faith. Terror becomes trust. Anguish melts into adoration. Habakkuk no longer wonders when and what God will do. He knows it now! He had made up his mind; he understands God was worthy long before any of those circumstances ever showed up and he renews and confirms his relationship with his Savior. The book ends with the prophet’s confidence placed in God no matter what happens. Throughout this journey, we have seen the prophet learn from God, wrestle with difficult ideas and circumstances.
Habakkuk no longer wonders when and what God will do. It is easy to rejoice when everything is going great. But Habakkuk is painting a very different picture here. He said there are no figs on the tree, no grapes on the vine, the olive crop has failed, and there is no food in the field, no sheep in the pen, or cattle in the stalls. That is a pretty bleak scenario, isn’t it! But we can learn from this how to rejoice in the midst of difficult times. Perhaps you may be dealing with a situation like failed crops or an empty bank account. Maybe you are dealing with other areas of your life that are unfruitful—where harvest has failed to occur. God wants you to turn that situation around! You may be looking at your situation and wondering how, but God’s word shows us exactly how to do it.
We must realize that the tests and trials of life come to every single one of us. At some time or another, difficult times are going to come. Jesus Himself said, “. . . In the world ye shall have tribulation . . .” (John 16:33). But look at the rest of that verse. After Jesus said we are going to face tribulation in this world, He said, “. . . but BE OF GOOD CHEER; I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD”! Habakkuk revealed a great spiritual truth! When nothing seems to be going right, and things don’t seem to be improving—and maybe things are absolutely bleak, but that is not the time to stop praising God, to stop being “of good cheer.” Habakkuk said, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (v. 18). Habakkuk is saying, among other things, that despite the circumstances of life, we are to rejoice in God. We are to delight ourselves in God and His Word and not to worry over our circumstances. We are to rejoice in God’s goodness, mercy, and abounding grace. When circumstances change for the worse, we can still rejoice, because we are rejoicing in our unchanging God!
The word that says God always causes us to triumph in Christ (2 Cor. 2:14) is the same word before you were up for that promotion as well as it was after you didn’t get the promotion or If you don’t get a raise. God will take care of you whether the company you work for gives you a raise or not! God can open the door for a better situation than you ever thought possible! But it will be on His terms. In other words, you will have to cooperate with Him and His Word so He can do it. God has provided salvation for us, both spiritually and naturally. Because of Jesus, we have eternal salvation, or eternal life. We are saved spiritually from eternal death and separation from God. But the salvation He has provided also includes our safety, preservation, deliverance, wholeness, and soundness in the natural. Some people want to spiritualize everything. I thank God for spiritual blessings, but I live in a natural world. We have to live and function in this world. Jesus said that we who are His, are in this world, yet we are not of this world (John 17:14). We don’t have to live as the world lives, soaking our hands in despair when tests and trials arise. We can lift our hands and rejoice in the face of tests and trials. Rejoice about what? About the God of our salvation! The reason people waver in their emotions, depending on whether things are good or bad, is because they have nothing to stabilize their lives. Either they have no salvation or they don’t understand their salvation. God is our salvation! He is our stabilizer! Yet when we face tests and trials, instead of rejoicing in God and allowing Him to calm us, we often begin to question Him. And some people allow those questions to cause them to fall away from God. They turn from the very things that will keep them steady in the midst of a storm so they can reach the other side of that test or trial safely, with songs in their hearts and testimonies on their lips.
If the prophet Habakkuk were here today, he might tell us, “Look, it has been a bad year, you lost your job, resources are scarce and things are very difficult. You think you might lose everything, and your future looks uncertain. But this is not the end for you. God hasn’t changed, and He wants to see you through. So rejoice in Him. Rejoice now—rejoice forever!” When you encounter troubles, tests, and trials, remember this: You are just passing through! In other words, don’t pitch camp on the problems. Just keep on walking, rejoicing in the God of your salvation! Psalm 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Notice here, David said even though I walk through the darkest valley! Too many times we stop in the valley and get devoured! Instead, we should pass through the valley of tests and trials, rejoicing in our God. We see the phrase, “yet I will rejoice” being uttered by prophet Habakkuk. What makes it astounding and particularly relevant for today is that he wrote these words in the midst of civil and cultural chaos and demise. Even more incredible, God had just revealed to him that his nation was about to experience catastrophic collapse; everything was about to change in ways that he could never have imagined. Still, in the midst of frustration, anguish, and perhaps even horror, he was able to stand and find cause for joy. So, how are we to respond? How do we as God’s people keep our understanding about this while facing the prospect of such gloom and despair? It may surprise you to know that throughout the Bible God’s people often lived in dark times of uncertainty and under the prospects of doom. For many, it was the norm rather than the exception. In fact many Christians throughout history have lived in such settings. It strikes us that in the Bible, joy is often coupled with a trial. In James 1:2-3, the author urges us to “Count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” In John 16:33, Jesus tells his disciples about the troubles they will face, but he goes on to say “Take heart; I have overcome the world.” And that is exactly why we can be joyful even now – because God still reigns, and His promises and character still hold true. He is our comforter (2 Corinth 1:3), our healer (Exodus 15:26), and the protector of the needy (Psalm 12:5).