I wrote last year on A Habakkuk 3 Kind of Thanksgiving.
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.
Many dear friends of mine are approaching the holidays in the midst of such a season. Divorce. Estrangement from children. Financial crisis. Physical suffering. Death of precious loved ones. One friend recounted leaving a church service at Thanksgiving because he just couldn’t put up with everyone’s thankful testimonies when so much was going wrong in his life. Thanksgiving became a catalyst for his crisis of faith. He’s emerged from that season, praise God. But I heard him clearly. When you are hurting, American Thanksgiving in conservative Christian culture can be salt on an open wound.
God preserved Habakkuk 3 in His living, active Word to us. Though written in a different time and culture, Habakkuk’s words of faith in his barren wasteland are words of faith to us today whatever our circumstances. Instead of wrestling with God over why He has allowed such devastation to take place, Habakkuk takes joy in God. When I think about it in its literal sense, I love the idea of taking joy in God. God is the author of this joy. Habakkuk takes it first from God and then takes it into God. There are all kind of mental pictures this provokes in my head. The main thing I get from this imagery is that such joy exists close to the throne room. It’s in God, from God, by God, and to God. It is joy that is accessed in my quiet chair with the Bible in my hand, and joy that is best renewed by returning to that Bible and kneeling beside it in prayer.
Why do such quiet moments with a Bible in prayer make a difference? When Jesus died for us, the veil was torn between us and the Holy of Holies. Now, we have access to God’s Throne of Grace. We can boldly and confidently come to Him and receive the grace and mercy we need to face our own barren wastelands. He does not leave us as orphans to navigate this. If you struggle to access this joy, I encourage you to preach the gospel to yourself anew. Here are some meditations on the gospel that may be helpful.
If you are in the barren wasteland asking where God is, He answers you from Habakkuk 3. “I am here, child. I am here in my Word, communicating to you that you are not the first of my children to spend extended time in the wasteland. You are not alone. And as Habakkuk found me in the wasteland, I am here for you too. There is still joy to be had in Me. Take it! Even in the barren wasteland, I give you My strength. I will make you graceful like a deer in this awful season, standing firm in treacherous places.”
Jobs come, and jobs go. Fig trees blossom. Fig trees die. Loved ones grow in faith. Loved ones walk away. But God is transcendent. And we really do, even in the wasteland, have something for which to be very, very thankful. God has not left you as an orphan in this wasteland. He knows where you are at, and He has met you in His Word. Take the joy this day that He freely offers you in Him through His word.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
Thank you for this post Wendy, it is beautiful, realistic, and so encouraging. Our 'quiet chairs' are a precious place of business with God aren't they. I was just hit by the truth of his grace being sufficient again a day or two ago as I felt a familiar sadness looming, yes, it is sufficient even when I feel sad, it doesn't have to be something seemingly massive to anyone else, even this sadness matters to him.
That's beautiful. Thank you for sharing, Hazel.
Thank you for noticing the folks who feel they have less to be thankful for this season. We should not get so caught up in the Hallmark moments of our holidays that we neglect our brothers and sisters who are struggling with pain and loss. The passage is a beautiful one for pointing us back to God.
Interesting that I read this today. A day when I am really tempted to want to give up on God. I feel incapable of even finding joy in God right now. He is allowing me to go through something that I thought He would spare me from. My worst nightmare has come true and I can barely breathe. I do read my Bible but the promises I see in there seem empty- like I have it wrong because I am experiencing the opposite. I don't want to keep reading my Bible and praying only to be crushed again. I have heard all my life about bringing glory to God through your trial and all I can do is survive- hour by hour. I don't have a glowing testimony- I have an “I survived another day” testimony. I do believe in God, in my eternal salvation through Jesus. I believe that somehow what He says must be true. But it doesn't feel true for me and I am oh so weary of trying to get it right and figure it out. What do you do when you are in this place?
Thanks Wendy for the scriptures. They are such a comfort. Life is short in the light of eternity so I try to look at my life in that way. Also I read biographies of great Christians like Suzannah Wesley, Amy Carmichael, Fanny Crosby, David Livingston, George Muller, and others. They had all kinds of problems. I look at my own parents and grandparents and see that they made it through to the end so I can too. God is interested in our souls not our goals. And sometimes it is just better to not think! I listen to music and smell great smells. I watch funny movies like “You Can't Take it With You,” and other movies from the 40's. We need to stop “trying” and just trust God. It's hard to do but with God's help we can begin.
Anonymous, my heart grieves with you. Thank you for sharing. I encourage you to plow through Hebrews, which was written to the early church suffering intense persecution and wondering why they should endure. It contains many beautiful encouragements to not give up on faith. Toward the end, the author cites the many believers who have gone on before us as a cloud of witnesses cheering us on from the sidelines. They understand well the struggle to endure. May God meet you in it and comfort you during this struggle.
Thank you for your kind words. Not sure I have ever felt this beat up spiritually before. I will take you advice and look at Hebrews. Thank you.
This is so timely and it makes my heart well up with overflowing gratitude to read it. I crave hearing THIS kind of thanksgiving! In the past year, I lost my health and my husband lost his job. But we are experiencing the unspeakable grace of God and the beauty that comes from brokenness. We are seeing Him “show up” daily in ways that make us thankful that He has chosen this path for us. It seems every person I talk to in recent months says this has also been one of the hardest years of their life. God seems to be calling His children to prayer, to brokenness, to walk closely with Him–and as you have so beautifully written, to find our joy in Him.
Blessings on you, dear Wendy. You have encouraged me deeply today.