Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labour of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls – Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:17-18 NKJV
Habakkuk is one of the shortest books in the Old Testament. We see an amazing transformation in the prophet’s outlook on life in its brief three chapters – from the depths of despair to the heights of joy. In verse 17, Habakkuk paints us the darkest possible picture a nation can face, which may signify that the provision of God can be cut off. If we transpose this into today’s setting, it may look like this: there’s no food, no drink, no salary, no health services, no home and our family and friends are scattered. Are we still willing to trust God? Habakkuk demonstrates his determination to rejoice in the Lord despite visible circumstances.
How can we find joy in the Lord when suffering is an ever-present companion? On Easter Monday, a dear friend passed away in Toronto. I checked my calendar multiple times to ensure it was not April Fools. Her death came so sudden that no one was prepared. She was not only talented, giving and dependable; she was also a dream chaser, an inspiration, and a passionate Christ follower. As I was trying to process this unspeakable pain, I was reminded of her favourite Bible verse: Habakkuk 3:17-18. I spent my sleepless nights reading commentaries and meditating on these intermingling verses.
As I revisit our memories and reflect on the fragility of life, I realised that joy and sorrow can coexist within our broken hearts. I grieve the loss of a true friend, yet I rejoice in having spent time living life together. I mourn with her husband and their two-year-old son, yet I rejoice in knowing that we will all be reunited in heaven. I don’t think we need to put on a cheerful face with blind optimism; but rather trust in the God of all comfort to deliver us as we comprehend the brokenness of this world.
Joy is an attitude – an attitude that affects how we look at life, an attitude that enables us to soar above outward circumstances. Separation, illness, unemployment, family conflict, catastrophe, death… the degrees of suffering and the forms of affliction differ for every one of us. However, joy is available to all of us. It can be found in an intimate dependence on the Lord, because suffering is not the end of our story.
Joy and sorrow are weaved together. What I learned from Habakkuk is that no matter how bleak our prospects seem, we can still rejoice between cries of desperation and songs of praise. When everything fails, God remains faithful. We cannot run against human limitations, but we can rejoice in our eternal salvation. In times of distress and when my strength is tapped, the prayer at the back of our church’s 2016 calendar becomes my prayer, “Apart from You, I die. With You, I live. I choose life. I choose You.”
Reflect on your intertwined joy and sorrow by:
- Praising and thanking God for your salvation, for captivating your wandering heart.
- Asking Jesus to help you fix your hope for the future in Him and when in trouble, be reminded that earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot cure.