“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.
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
Habakkuk is one of those minor prophets we tend to skim over on the way to the Gospels and Paul’s letters. But in this short book there are several important lessons about the importance of living by faith, including the powerful prayer he closes with. It is believed Habakkuk was written before the captivity of Israel by the Babylonians, to prophesy of the coming time of captivity and to remind the Israelites to continue to live by faith once they were taken captive.
Habakkuk closes with a bold prayer of reliance of God regardless of our circumstances and it is a prayer we need to make our own on the days when it all hits the fan. When the fig tree doesn’t blossom. When the scan comes back to say the tumour has grown. When we get made redundant at work. When we fail the exam. When the bills stack up. When the fields yield no food. When our ministry gets shut down. When the storm seems relentless. When the pain is crippling. When there is no herd in the stalls. When it feels like you have absolutely nothing left. At your lowest point.
That is when we must rejoice in the LORD and take joy in the God of our salvation. That is when we must cry out to God, the Lord, who is our strength. Our faith is based not on our circumstances but in our God, the unfailing, unchanging one. God does not promise us plain sailing when we put our trust in Jesus (in fact he promises quite the opposite…). But He does promise to be faithful to us through the dark valleys. He will be our strength on the days when we feel like giving up. He will restore us to run again and not grow weary. He provides and sustains us, even when the produce of the olive fails. There will come a day when God enables us to tread on our high places. It may not be this side of eternity, but the day is coming.
Trusting God is easy when all is going well, but we must remain faithful during the difficult seasons too. Because if our faith is dependent on things going well for us then we are not really trusting God. We must surrender fully to Him and go to Him as our source of joy, even in the darkest days. Because joy is different to happiness. Happiness is a temporary emotion based on circumstances, whereas joy is deeper contentment in all things, not reliant on our present situation but coming from the hope of the eternal glory that is ahead of us.
There will be dark days. There will be hard times. There will come days when the fig tree does not blossom. But when our faith is in God rather than our circumstances then the hard times will not rock our faith. We will remain steadfast with our anchor in the unshakeable Ageless One, the Rock that holds us firm. He is our strength, our hope, our joy, our salvation.