“…yet I will celebrate in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!” (Habakkuk 3:18)
After God shows Habakkuk the looming “day of distress,” this is the prophet’s response. Up to this point, to me at least, the greatest selling point of this little book of the Bible has been its authenticity. It is real. Raw. It started with the prophet being angry with God – disappointed. I read it and I think, man, I can relate to this guy.
Now, in the midst of all this impending doom, the prophet is talking about joy? Seems like a non sequitur to me. But that’s because I don’t think we understand Christian joy. Most humans relate joy to happy circumstances. In the church, we’re a bit more spiritual than that. We’re taught that if we hear and believe God’s truth, that will bring joy to life.
But then, in the midst of life, our joy is disrupted by “bad things.” Bad things happening to good people, we tell ourselves. We face loss, rejection, depression, jealousy, offense, anxiety, disaster, accidents, sickness, crime. Our defense mechanism, like Jonah, is to run away…to block the despair. So we double down on legalism (maybe if we do more for God he will help us out!) or we turn on the TV or get lost in social media or eat or shop or indulge in other addictions. Anything to block the pain.
But the despair we face calls us back to obedience. Habakkuk is keenly aware of what’s headed his way. But he plants his stake. He stays put and obeys God’s command to call his beloved countrymen to repentance.
And while Habakkuk faced the horror of impending doom, the Prophet Jeremiah had to deal with the aftermath. After Babylon conquered Jerusalem, Jeremiah walks the streets weeping before God. He saw old and young laying dead on the cobblestone streets. The Temple gone. Priests murdered. Children starving. Cannibalism.
Jeremiah is very rational in his approach. He doesn’t deny what he plainly sees before him. He doesn’t deny the despair. He doesn’t deny his raw emotions. Instead, he recalls God’s great faithfulness, EVEN IN THE MIDST of despair: “Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3:22–23)
Friend, I don’t know your circumstances. I don’t know your pain. But I do know God’s promise. Joy comes again…but not necessarily in the circumstances. It is a joy found in the Lord despite the circumstances. It is a more realistic joy. More true to life. More vibrant. More grounded in reality. More appreciated. What Jeremiah and Habakkuk both discover is true joy – biblical joy.
Join us Sunday and we’ll dig into this passage together!