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. – Habakkuk 3:17–19 (ESV)
Imagine a prophet that has been called by God, but this time, he is not proclaiming good news—he is openly lamenting. He stands before God not with adoration and praise but with complaint and accusations. “Why do you tolerate evil and wrongdoing,” the prophet cries out to God. Imagine a man or woman, lamenting the loss of a child; a husband the loss of a wife; a child the loss of a friend. What do we do when evil and calamity strike not just our city and neighborhood but even our own souls?
Who would have thought that an 2,600 year old book would be so relevant to the life of today. Habakkuk is such a prophet, who knows what it is like to walk in the midst of despair and is not fearful to hide his complaining and lamenting to God. In the land of Judah, there is evil, injustice, suffering, and despair, and Habakkuk is yearning for God to make things right. Yet, the answer that Habakkuk receives has more to do with waiting than receiving. Where do you go when God answers but it isn’t the answer that you wanted?
At the very end of the book, Habakkuk changes the mood: his lamenting has turned into rejoicing. How does the prophet rejoice even when his prayers are not answered? Because his hope is not in what God can bring but in God himself. You see, too many of us come to God for what he can do rather than for who He is. Notice that Habakkuk says he will rejoice in God and find his joy in God. Where is God in the midst of pain and suffering? Right in the middle of the despair, whispering in your ear, “I know what I am doing. Trust me. Put your hope in me. I will comfort you. I am your God.”
To put it into our language, Habakkuk says, “When my 401(k) is drained, I have lost my job, and there are no prospects, even then I will rejoice in the Lord.” Habakuk ultimately finds his joy and hope not in transient objects such as wealth, power, or relationships, but in God, who is in Himself the fullness of joy (Ps. 16:11). This does not mean that Habakkuk is happy or overtly cheerful—it does mean that there is a deep sense of abiding joy that is present even in the most difficult circumstances.
In the days that are relentless in their assault against you, will you trust in the strength of the Lord rather than the strength of your plans? Will you trust in the strength of the Lord rather than the strength of yourself? God is inviting you to trust Him in the darkness because he acutely knows what it is like to walk in darkness. Jesus himself entered the darkest of hours while on the cross so that even though you may feel forsaken at this moment—God will never forsake you.