Faith Thoughts are sent in by Dr Elisabeth Leembruggen from Holy Trinity Utrecht.
Though the fig tree does not blossom, there are no grapes on the vines, 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 will I rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Lord my God is my strength*
The Northern Galilee in Winter is stunningly beautiful. Verdant hills stretch for kilometres profiling greens of every hue. Puffy cumulus clouds, pregnant with the promise of rain, glide overhead set in motion by cool breezes. Sheep contentedly graze on hills that slope toward the Sea of Galilee. Everything is in bloom. Flowering plants and fruiting trees explode in colourful profusion; their delicate odours fill the air. Roadside hawkers sell their produce to travellers. The land is fecund, teeming with bounty.
This fecundity—this wealth—is starkly contrasted for us by Habakkuk. When the rains dry up, all is lost. There is no grazing in verdant pasture. No buds blossom, no fruit sprouts on the vine. Produce fails. Life crashes.
Unless we live in agricultural societies, we cannot immediately relate to this message. But for those dependent on these commodities, the loss of figs, olives, cattle & sheep is as devastating today as in the day of Habakkuk. Ask a shepherd in Jordan. The vintner in Southern France. The fig farmer in Malta. Their lives and their livelihoods depend on these products.
Even if we can’t directly relate to these verses, we, too, understand the experience.
That academic degree for which we laboured long and hard, does not ‘blossom’ into the hoped-for job. The ‘fruits of our labour’ languish, tattered despite long hours of industrious toiling. The sheep in the pen, the cattle in the stall—that pension attached to the stock market; those savings for a new car, the house payment—vanish before our eyes. The company downsizes. The job is outsourced. There is nothing in the stall and literally nothing on the shelf.
We feel emotionally spent, drained and uncertain about the future.
And yet we are instructed to rejoice. Not in ruinous circumstances. Not in the loss. We are to rejoice in God who is our strength. No matter life’s devastations; despite the shambles around us, difficult as it maybe: Rejoice! Why? Because rejoicing is an act of Faith, an act of choice. Habakkuk asserts: YET—despite the circumstances—Rejoice. Rejoice in God our salvation, in God our deliverer—for the ‘Lord our God is our Strength’. And in that strength, Habakkuk asserts, we are able to reach new heights (verse 3:19).
This is psychologically sound advice for the 21st century sojourner. Health studies reveal those who find joy in the circumstances of life—no matter how devastating—are more resilient, have better physical health, and enjoy a better quality of life as they are spiritually transformed**.
So, if your fig tree has yet to blossom, thank God in Faith. Rain is on the way!
*Habakkuk 3: ff, NIV
**Chandler, Holder & Kolander, Counseling for Spiritual Wellness, 1992