Let me start with a confession. I have struggled and struggled to write this blog post. I started three different posts that just didn’t feel right. I’ve written and rewritten. And nothing still felt right. Then I prayed about it (I should’ve done that first, eh?). And only one thing came to me – a scripture passage I had read earlier this week that I just couldn’t shake.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NLT)
17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
When I first read this in a reading plan I’ve been following with the Bible app, I kept thinking how sad and barren the first three-quarters of the passage are. They are in a desert time. Have you ever found yourself stuck in a desert? Where your soul feels dry and parched and alone? Where it feels like that “desert” stretches beyond your sight, and you wonder if it will ever end?
When I’ve been in those desert times, rejoicing and being joyful are rarely the first things I think about. Instead I grumble. I complain. I moan.
But the writer of this scripture does the exact opposite of what you’d expect. He doesn’t wail a lament to God to raise him out of his circumstances or cry that he will cling to God in despair – which we do see frequently and which I don’t believe is wrong. But instead, he first declares that in spite of those circumstances, he will rejoice and be joyful.
What a shift for my little mind! Are my priorities in order, that even if times seem hopeless I am still praising my God? That I am still joyful because God is my salvation – my eternal promise?
Earlier this year a crisis in my family had me in a desert time. I was barely clinging to God with a heart full of anguish, sadness and worry. Joy? Not something that was in great supply. But here I was being reminded that even in the midst of my pain, I could’ve praised God and rejoiced in Him. I lifted up countless prayers during that time, but my prayers of praise were in too short of supply, it seems. I wonder now what that could’ve done for my soul and for my family during that trying time. What I learned – and what I think God wanted to teach me – was that I could still have joy in the God who guarantees my eternal destiny even when I’m in the desert.
Maybe you are going through your own desert time. Maybe God meant this verse for you, too. If so, I pray you know that God is always there for you and he intends you to have joy in Him, even in the desert.