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.
Not everyone is having a grand season this Christmas; I’m fairly sure that is true. While many are able to rejoice with family and friends, with good health and prosperity, with comfort and growth and the rest, there are those who find this season hard, pressing, and painful. Those who are struggling for survival while the rest of the world celebrates are not necessarily only those who are outside of the church. Even within the family of believers are those who are fighting to keep their spiritual heads above water as the season of cheerful songs and joyous decorations marches on.
The struggles of those who are fighting for joy as this season arrives came to my mind vividly as I read through the little book of Habakkuk this morning. As Habakkuk continually asked God why justice was not being done in the world, he received from God answers that did not necessarily thrill him. God told Habakkuk that justice was being done, but not exactly in the way that Habakkuk expected. And at the end of the book, Habakkuk penned the lines that we read above.
Just think through Habakkuk’s words, and see what he is saying. Even if all the food is gone, if all the drink is gone, if all the prosperity is gone, if all the outward signs of hope are gone, if all the things that give me joy in this life are gone there is something in which I will find my joy. Even if the world crashes down around me and everything I think should be going well is not going well, I will find hope. Even if everything I want to happen does not happen I will find joy. No matter what happens in this life, no matter who or what disappoints me, I will find my joy in the Lord my God, the God of my salvation.
I’ll be honest, when I woke up this morning, I was not thinking much about my joy. My own mind was fairly full of things that I wished were different. But such thinking is something we must battle. God does not want us to find our joy in the things or the circumstances of this life. We are not to be joyful when things go well and joyless when things are difficult. No, God wants us to have a far greater perspective than that. He wants to be our source of joy. Such a view glorifies God as we find our hope and joy in him and not in the things and circumstances of this world.
The only question that remains is just how we can accomplish this? I wish I had a simple formula to offer that would make this easy, but I don’t. Some days joy comes naturally as I ponder the things of God. Some days it requires discipline, spiritual exercise, and focused prayer and meditation. This morning, the way that this all came together is that I was reading the scriptures even though I did not feel like it. Right in the middle of my Bible reading, God showed me these verses in Habakkuk, reminding me that God is to be my joy, even if all outer circumstances seem hopeless. And as I have pondered that God desires to be my joy and that such joy is right, I have found my heart becoming more and more joyful. This still requires prayer and meditation; it still requires me to choose to be joyful in God instead of joyless in the circumstances of life. But I am learning that, as I set my heart on God, he will grant me joy in himself and in his glory.