“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
My Bible reading plan directed my attention to the Book of Habakkuk, a book in the Bible that I, honestly, rarely turn to and read. I even had to use the concordance to look up the page number. But I was struck by what Habakkuk 3:17 says: “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” (emphasis added).
My initial thought was about how Habakkuk can say this so confidently. Basically, if I have nothing and if bad things are happening to me and around me, how can I can still triumph? How, Habakkuk? How do you yet triumph?
Well, the triumph is in the Lord, not in the circumstance. I don’t rejoice in the situation; I rejoice in God. My personal God who knows everything about me. The God who is the God of my salvation, who wants the very best for me, and is molding me into His image.
I’m recognizing and learning that “happiness” is based on circumstances. Sure, when good things happen in my life and around me and with my family, I’m pretty happy. But what about the trials, pain, hurt and losses? I will probably not be happy, but I can choose to be joyful.
There’s the difference. I’m choosing joy in response to these external circumstances and situations. Because of the work of the Holy Spirit, I can have peace and an inner contentment and satisfaction that only He can produce and provide. God doesn’t always remove the storm or trial in our life, but He does promise to be with us in them. He promises to walk us through our trial, our difficulty. He actually carries us through our pain and difficulty, as the beautiful poem “Footprints in the Sand” reminds us.
Like Habakkuk, my heart’s desire is for us to triumph in the Lord. To rejoice in the God of our salvation no matter if the fig tree is budding or not. No matter if there is fruit on the vines or not. No matter if the olive crop is plenty or fails. No matter if there is food or not. No matter if there are sheep in the pen or not. No matter if there are cattle in the stalls or not.
So coach, player, Mom, Dad, parent — what does this look like for you? This is praising God in the tough season. The so-called “rebuilding” season. The losses, the hurt, the pain, the embarrassment, the questioning. The bad game. The poor performance. The injury. The loss of a job. The financial stress. The diagnosis. The death of a loved one. The list of trials could go on and on. The L’s become lessons! The hurt and pain now become a teacher.
Our job is not to understand these moments or seasons, but to trust God. His ways are higher than our ways, and like James we can boldly say, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
As I reflect and look back over my life, the No. 1 contributor to my spiritual growth and development has been the trials, the hurt, the losses and the pain. Pain always has purpose. I encourage you to lean in and learn the amazing lessons this teacher provides.
— Jim Good
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