With the new year upon us Habakkuk 3:17-19 comes to mind:
"Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights." (NLT)
A little background on the concluding statements of Habakkuk’s book. He opens his writing complaining to God about the societal culture. He’s upset that there’s violence, destruction, arguing, fighting, ineffectiveness of the law, and the perversion of justice. Additionally, Israel had been overrun by Babylon–the wickedest nation of that time. Fuming, he pleads, “I keep asking for help, why won’t You listen?"
God answers that He’s responsible for the Babylonians rise to power. Dismayed, Habakkuk inquires, "Surely You don’t plan to wipe us out?" Almost in answer to his own question, he realizes that if God sent the Babylonians, it must be for a good purpose. However, wanting reassurance, he verifies, "You won’t let those who worship their own strength, do it forever, right?"
Let’s take note of what happens next. First, Habakkuk seeks a place of solitude and quiets himself to wait for God’s answer. God replies describing the future downfall of Babylon and the deliverance of Israel. He’s clear it will happen, even if it’s slow in the coming; it won’t be delayed. His encouragement is to wait patiently, confident in the outcome.
Second, in response, Habakkuk praises God for who He is and what He’s going to do. But because his circumstances hadn’t changed, he concludes with the verses above. Stating emphatically that although he be in the worst possible life situations, he will, as it adds in the Amplified version, choose to rejoice and be joyful.
Let’s be careful here. He’s not putting on a plastic smile and acting like everything’s ok. Notice what he’s rejoicing and finding joy in. It’s not his state of affairs. It’s God and who He is to Habakkuk in the midst of a dark time. It’s the relationship that he and God share. This is further seen in that Habakkuk doesn’t ask for strength; he says that God is his strength. He didn’t see strength as separate from God or relationship with Him.
And then, Habakkuk declares his footing is made solid by God, like a deer able to walk in high places! Having never seen a deer in high places I ran a quick internet search. Interestingly, photos of mountain sheep were returned. Growing up in Colorado I’m very familiar with these amazing animals who scale the heights with such ease. What a word picture! Steady footing in the midst of perilous conditions.
So, my friend, as we turn our attention to the coming year, I don’t know if you’re filled with hope or dread. Either way, I think we can learn a few things from Habakkuk’s example. He had consistent, open, and honest conversation with God. We too would greatly benefit by regular dialog with God, sharing everything with Him.
As he did, we should ask questions and listen for answers (Matthew 7:7). Seek opportunity for solitude, quiet, and time for just us and God. And know, that even if God allows difficultly in our lives, it’s for a good purpose (Romans 8:28-29).
Most importantly, because God will finish what He started (Philippians 1:6), we shouldn’t be distracted by even the worst case scenarios of life. But, instead choose to rejoice and find joy in the truest thing we have, our relationship with God (Colossians 3:2)! Just like Habakkuk, I believe we’ll find God to be our strength (Isaiah 12:2), and that, He’ll give us solid footing (Psalm 40:2) even in the most precarious of circumstances.
If I can encourage you in following Habakkuk’s example, please, don’t hesitate to contact me. Also, we’re looking for people who’d like to bring our conference to their area this year. If you’re interested and would like more information, please, call me. Finally, don’t forget our web site (elmco.org). It’s full of resources to help you from blog articles, to recommended reading, an archive of my past letters, and a list of upcoming events.
Everything’s worthless compared to knowing Him (Philippians 3:8 NLT)!
Mike Roncaglia, Executive Director