With a tendency toward pessimism, I quickly jump to negative conclusions about how situations in my life will play out. If I’m thwarted in my efforts on a work project, I’m easily convinced none of my other projects will be successful either, and—even though utterly unrelated—I will probably never be able to touch my toes comfortably. And, woe is me, I’m an awful mother who can’t do anything right. Defeat in one area unnecessarily affects my feelings in many.
It’s easy for me to imagine how the prophet Habakkuk might have reacted to what God showed him. He had great cause for despair after having seen the coming troubles for God’s people; long and arduous years lay ahead. Things really did look dismal: no fruit, no meat, and no creature comforts. His words lure me into a pessimistic bed of hopelessness until he jars me awake again with a small three-letter word: yet. “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord” (Habakkuk 3:18). Despite all the hardships he anticipated, Habakkuk found cause for rejoicing simply because of who God is.
While we might be prone to exaggerate our problems, Habakkuk truly faced some extreme hardships. If he could summon praise for God in those moments, perhaps we can too. When we’re bogged down in the depths of despair, we can look to God who lifts us up.
Lord, You are the reason for all my joy. Help me to fix my eyes on You when my circumstances are painful and hard.
God is our cause for joy in the midst of despair.
We don’t know much about the prophet Habakkuk. Not even his father, tribe, or hometown is provided. Yet he is believed to be a temple musician-prophet because he had his own stringed instruments (see Habakkuk 3:19). He was likely a contemporary of the prophets Nahum, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah. He prophesied in a period of violence and political chaos that began in the context of Assyria’s upheaval, continued during the Babylonian victory over Jerusalem (597 bc), and ended in Babylon’s fall to the Persians (539 bc).
He would have felt the impact of the death of good King Josiah, who had brought Judah back to God for a short time. Before and after Josiah’s reign, Judah had turned away from God and been characterized by moral and spiritual decay that included the worship of other gods. No wonder Habakkuk was in despair! In his little book he questions (complains to) God out of his burdened heart, and God answers. In the end, the prophet has a deeper understanding of God’s justice.
When has God given you joy in the midst of pain?