17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.Many dear friends of mine are approaching the holidays in the midst of such a season. Divorce. Estrangement from children. Financial crisis. Physical suffering. Death of precious loved ones. One friend recounted leaving a church service at Thanksgiving because he just couldn't put up with everyone's thankful testimonies when so much was going wrong in his life. Thanksgiving became a catalyst for his crisis of faith. He's emerged from that season, praise God. But I heard him clearly. When you are hurting, American Thanksgiving in conservative Christian culture can be salt on an open wound.
God preserved Habakkuk 3 in His living, active Word to us. Though written in a different time and culture, Habakkuk's words of faith in his barren wasteland are words of faith to us today whatever our circumstances. Instead of wrestling with God over why He has allowed such devastation to take place, Habakkuk takes joy in God. When I think about it in its literal sense, I love the idea of taking joy in God. God is the author of this joy. Habakkuk takes it first from God and then takes it into God. There are all kind of mental pictures this provokes in my head. The main thing I get from this imagery is that such joy exists close to the throne room. It's in God, from God, by God, and to God. It is joy that is accessed in my quiet chair with the Bible in my hand, and joy that is best renewed by returning to that Bible and kneeling beside it in prayer.
Why do such quiet moments with a Bible in prayer make a difference? When Jesus died for us, the veil was torn between us and the Holy of Holies. Now, we have access to God's Throne of Grace. We can boldly and confidently come to Him and receive the grace and mercy we need to face our own barren wastelands. He does not leave us as orphans to navigate this. If you struggle to access this joy, I encourage you to preach the gospel to yourself anew. Here are some meditations on the gospel that may be helpful.
If you are in the barren wasteland asking where God is, He answers you from Habakkuk 3. “I am here, child. I am here in my Word, communicating to you that you are not the first of my children to spend extended time in the wasteland. You are not alone. And as Habakkuk found me in the wasteland, I am here for you too. There is still joy to be had in Me. Take it! Even in the barren wasteland, I give you My strength. I will make you graceful like a deer in this awful season, standing firm in treacherous places.”
Jobs come, and jobs go. Fig trees blossom. Fig trees die. Loved ones grow in faith. Loved ones walk away. But God is transcendent. And we really do, even in the wasteland, have something for which to be very, very thankful. God has not left you as an orphan in this wasteland. He knows where you are at, and He has met you in His Word. Take the joy this day that He freely offers you in Him through His word.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.