16 I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. 17 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, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.
When you and I are confronted with life’s problems, what do we see? I can imagine that some would say that question sounds ridiculous. The truth is that every problem, situation, and circumstance that we face or encounter has at least two views. The first view in any problem is the reality of the problem and its accompanying issues. Yet, no matter how great or small, all problems at some point must run their course. This is the second view in any problem is at some point it will cease to be a problem. How well or poorly we deal with the problems, issues, or challenges we face will depend on which view you and I choose to focus on.
The prophet Habakkuk heard and saw the Babylonian army coming and he became paralyzed with fear. He said, “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones and my legs trembled.” The Babylonian army relied on numbers, they would send wave after wave after wave of soldiers to storm cities and eventually wear their opponents down. They had a reputation for overwhelming their enemies. When you go to visit your parents and you notice one of them exhibiting some memory issues, here comes the Babylonians. When your supervisor informs you that due to budget cuts you have to give back, or furlough some days and time, here comes the Babylonians. When your creditors expect you to still make payments even though you are bringing home less money, here comes Babylon. We will know that the Babylonian army is coming when whatever you and I face overwhelms and paralyzes us with fear. We will feel powerless.
Whenever we receive news that is less than desirable it causes a shock to our system. Habakkuk’s initial reaction to the news of the Babylonian army’s presence overwhelmed him and caused his system to go into shock. One of the laws of gravity and physics state, “What goes up must come down.” Apparently, Habakkuk remembered this fact and regained his equilibrium. In the later portion of verse 16 he says, “Yet, I shall wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.” As Habakkuk applied the laws of gravity and physics to his situation he came to the conclusion that even Babylon must fall at some point. I have to presume that Habakkuk reflected on some of the prior challenges that Israel faced throughout their history such as the Philistines, the Assyrians, the Egyptians, and others. All of these and some other foes that Israel faced all had their day. In their time they were able to exert their power and dominance over Israel. Then also came a day when they ceased to be a threat and fell like the setting sun on the horizon. Habakkuk realized that while Babylon might be on top today there is coming a day when they too shall fall. Until then Habakkuk decided to wait it out. When you and I are confronted with situations and circumstances that we cannot do anything about, we have to remember – this too shall pass. Until it passes we have to be prepared to wait it out.
The truth is, it is difficult to wait a bad situation out if you are only surrounded by or exposed to doom and gloom. The fact is that in many situations things will get a lot worse before they get better. One thing that counters doom and gloom is a vision of better. Before we can believe things will get better, we need to see something better. Today, we live in a world filled with skepticism and cynicism. As a result most people will not try anything different, do something different or think differently unless they see how it will tangibly improve their lives. This is perhaps one of the reasons some struggle with their faith, because faith is an intangible. You cannot see it, taste it, touch it, smell it, or feel it, and you don’t know that you have it until you need it. When we are in the midst of a crisis or are being overwhelmed by life’s problems it takes faith to see something other than what we are going through, because there is no evidence that things will get better.
People who point out the obvious are annoying. The entire world can see that things are not going well for us and here comes some joker who says, “you’re going through a bit of a rough patch, huh?” While point out the obvious can be annoying, it is also necessary. Reality helps to keep us grounded, but it is also the launching pad for faith. We do not necessarily need faith when things are going well. But, when things are not going so well that’s the time we need…Habakkuk issues a statement of his reality when he says, “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.” The reality for Habakkuk was that nothing was happening and there was no indication that anything was going to happen.
The interesting thing about Habakkuk is that he did not stop there, because while he acknowledges the reality of his situation today he also possessed an intangible that helped him to see beyond today. When you are hopeless and feel helpless you can only see the problem, but when we possess faith we can see beyond the problem and also see the possibilities and potential. Faith helps us to see beyond today and into tomorrow. Habakkuk makes no bones about the fact that things are about as bad as they can get right now, but in spite of how bad things are “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Faith is not predicated on what God does, but whom we believe that God is and know God to be. If our faith is based on what God does or does not do then we stop at verse 17. If on the other hand our faith is rooted in the knowledge of whom God is than we can thank God for who He is. Habakkuk recognizes that God is both the LORD and Savior. As the LORD, God is the self-existing God. Everything that God needs to fulfill His plan, will, and purposes is within God. God does not need any help or rely on anything or anyone, because He is God and there is none greater than God. Since there is none greater than my God, Habakkuk declares that he will find his joy in the God of his salvation. When we recognize that it is God alone who can save us and that God’s salvation is always imminent for God’s people we have the power to change how we feel. People who realized that their help is on the way are not sad and depressed, but rather they are happy and elated because they know their troubles will soon be over.
Ultimately, Habakkuk stopped focusing on the Babylonian problem of today and turned his attention to how God was going to ushering in a new day called tomorrow. “The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” At the point where human strength ends, divine strength begins. In order for something new to begin something old has to end. As long as we struggle to manage our situations, determine our outcomes, and manipulate the course of events God will stay out of our affairs because clearly we do not need any help or assistance. However, when we decide to cede control and turn over the reigns to God, He will then enable and empower us to go through and overcome whatever we are facing. Deer’s are interesting creatures. They do not like inclement weather because it hampers their senses and their instincts tell them that they are “at risk” and in danger. Therefore they generally wait until the weather changes. It is amazing how when we are in tune with God, He will use our instincts to alert us of changes in our environment that put us at risk. However, when the weather conditions are ideal deer’s are able to move swiftly and stealthy. In fact while deer’s cannot outrun all predators they do have the ability to go to higher ground. While we may not be able to outrun our problems, God has the power to elevate us above them. Sometimes the solution is not to get out of, but to rise above.
Without a doubt the problems of today can be overwhelming. However, the same God that delivered us from the problems of yesterday will deliver us from the problems of today. The key is to understand that while problems and situations have to run their course a better day is coming tomorrow. Thank God for tomorrow.