” 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, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
Get the picture. Habakkuk lists all the evidences of emptiness and despair and sorrow in this world, a fig tree not blossoming, no fruit on the vines, the olive having no produce, the fields yielding no food, the flock being cut off from the fold. There’s no herd in the stalls. It was just empty. Everything is empty and dry and barren in this world. That’s the picture here, and then Habakkuk says, “Yet in the middle of the dryness and the barrenness and the emptiness of everything in this world, everything we look to in this world, we long for in this world, we need in this world, even food, amidst emptiness and barrenness, yet, I will rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
Even in the midst of great sorrow and suffering, because of Christ conquering sin and death, we can take joy in the God of our salvation.
What a statement of faith that, when this world is totally empty, it is possible to still have joy, to rejoice. How is that possible? When we look to God? This is what Romans 5 means when Paul says, “We rejoice in suffering.” How do you rejoice in suffering? Here’s how. Think about what suffering is.
Suffering is losing things in this world that we love, that we desire, that are in many ways good for us and comforting to us. Like if we lose someone we love, that’s suffering. When we lose our health and we’re in pain or we’re fighting cancer, that’s suffering. When we lose a job, when this thing in this world is taken away, this person in this world is taken away, this treasure even in this world is taken away, that’s where suffering comes in, but the beauty of those, all who trust in God, is that we have in God a joy and a satisfaction that supersedes even the best things this world has to offer us, that even when we lose great things in this world, great people in this world, and it’s not that the tears aren’t many, they are, it’s not that the suffering isn’t real, it’s real, but we have in God a treasure that is far better, far greater, far more wonderful than good health.
We have a God who guarantees us eternal life far beyond our health in this world. We have a God who’s better. Ultimately, he is better than husband or wife, than child or parent, than friend that we love. All these are good gifts from him, but, ultimately, he is the giver of those gifts and, even when things in this world are taken away from us, they drive us more to the giver of those gifts in the first place, so we can say in the middle of emptiness and barrenness in this world, “Though the fig tree doesn’t blossom, fruit not on the vines, produce of the olive fails, fields yield no food, flock being cut off from the fold, no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
Oh, God, I pray these words. I pray them especially over people right now who are experiencing loss, who are experiencing suffering, who are walking through the death of a loved one, cancer, trial, severe trial even. God, I pray for joy in suffering. God, I pray for a satisfaction in you, a strength from you, a joy in you that supersedes even the hardest circumstances in this world.
God, we know you are ultimately satisfying, that we can have joy because of Jesus, because Jesus has conquered sin and death. He has severed the root of suffering and risen from the grave, and we know that even troubles in this world are light and momentary and they are, in a 2 Corinthians kind of way, they are achieving an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
God, keep our eyes fixed on you amidst the hurts and suffering in this world, keep our eyes fixed on eternity, on your promises, on your goodness, on your greatness in the middle of all this. Help us to rejoice with hope. We don’t grieve. 1 Thessalonians, “We don’t grieve like the world grieves.” We grieve with hope because we know this world will not have the last word, that cancer won’t have the last word, that emptiness, barrenness will not have the last word.
Jesus, you have the last word, and we rejoice in you. We praise you. We exult you, and we pray that you would help us to have Habakkuk 3:18 kind of faith and a Habakkuk 3:17 kind of world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
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