Times are hard for everyone. Evil is everywhere. Crime is rampant. The economy is falling apart. People are losing jobs. I turn on the news and am overwhelmed with the stories I see reported. And I don’t even have to go to the television to know people are facing difficult situations. I have friends with marriages falling apart, husbands who have lost jobs, children who are facing sickness; friends who are facing depression, the loss of a spouse, bankruptcy. We have faced our own share of problems recently with my son’s health. On the surface it seems there is much reason to lament and cry out that God doesn’t care; He’s not really in control of things or He wouldn’t allow such heartache. It’s easy to become anxious, worry, and allow the enemy to steal our peace in the midst of such trying times.

In church recently, our choir director quoted some verses from Habakkuk.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. Habakkuk 3:17-19 NIV

Habakkuk wrote these words sometime between 612 and 589 BC. Judah had the last of four kings in a line that had almost all rejected God. The NIV Life Application Bible says it was a period of time marked by “fear, oppression, persecution, lawlessness and immorality.” Does that description seem to fit today’s times?

What are we to do when it seems as though the world is falling apart? Habakkuk had the right answer: rejoice. The notes in my Bible say “Habakkuk affirmed that even in times of starvation and loss, he would still rejoice in the Lord. Habakkuk’s feelings were not controlled by the events around him but by Faith in God’s ability to give him strength. When nothing makes sense, and when trouble seems more than you can bear, remember God gives you strength. Take your eyes off your difficulties and look to God.”

As I read these notes, I thought, “Rejoice? Am I really supposed to rejoice? I don’t feel like rejoicing.” Then what my friend calls the holy highlighter fell on the words “Habakkuk’s feelings were not controlled by the events around him but by faith in God.” It doesn’t mater how I feel; I’m supposed to rely on my faith in God. I’m supposed to rejoice. My pastor shared in church recently, sometimes he doesn’t feel like praising God but he does it anyway because he knows he’s commanded to. Then, when he is obedient and praises God, the feelings follow.

We have another command in scripture.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)

When we rejoice and remember God is near, when we aren’t anxious but are thankful in everything, and present our requests to God; something amazing happens: peace comes flooding in. It is a peace those who do not know God do not understand. And that peace my friends, is definitely something to rejoice over.

5 Responses to Rejoice
  1. Raffi Shahinian
    November 24, 2008 | 2:52 pm

    Beautifully put. I guess I couldn’t help but run into this post, what with the theme the tension of evil/suffering vs. thanksgiving bursting forth from it. I spoke briefly on the broader issue of Thanksgiving and the problem of evil yesterday at our church’s annual Thanksgiving dinner. I think we’re basically saying the same thing, from different levels of broadness.

    Once again, beautiful post. I’ll check back from time to time.

    Grace and Peace,

  2. Laurie Ann
    November 24, 2008 | 5:44 pm

    Both of these are two of my favorite passages of Scripture. I love the first one, especially, for I have lived it. Thanks for a wonderful devotion, as always!

  3. Joane
    November 25, 2008 | 12:14 am

    Wonderful post Amy. Spoke right to my heart. That verse out of Habakkuk was the one the Lord gave me from the She Speaks conference. What a blessing it has been to me.

    Thank you for the reminder.

  4. Christin
    November 25, 2008 | 1:59 pm

    Thank you for the reminder…sometimes it’s too easy to get wrapped up in all the “woes”. These are really faith-testers!

  5. Carol
    December 2, 2008 | 10:38 am

    This is powerful!