Most people will tell you it is easy to praise God when things are going well, but it’s not so easy to praise Him when life throws you a curveball. We have been thrown a curveball over these last couple of years. Many of us have had a hard year. Right now, you might be struggling to thank and praise God. You might be having a hard time thinking about what you are going to voice to your family as you sit around the table and talk about what you are thankful for.
While many of you have most likely had a hard year, while our churches have had a hard year, I want to give you some reasons why you can thank and praise God this Thanksgiving. Habakkuk is probably not a book you venture to too often. He is one of the Minor Prophets, but his message is not minor. It is powerful. It provides several reasons we can praise God, even when life is difficult.
In chapter 3 of his book he says,
"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, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” (Hab 3:17–19, ESV)
Habakkuk faced difficulties but he still found a way to praise and worship the Lord. How is that?
How can Habakkuk promise to rejoice in the Lord when everything around him is crumbling? When he is facing hardship and suffering loss, what is it that allows him to take joy in God?
What is it that allows us to praise God when things are difficult? I believe Habakkuk clues us into four truths in these three verses that allow us to thank God even in the difficult times.
(1) We can praise God in difficult times because God is unchanged (v.17)
Looking at verse 17, we see that Habakkuk paints a picture of loss for us. Specifically he envisions losing things that are vital to their economy.
- The fig tree is not going to blossom
- Fruit will not be found on the vine
- The olive trees will cease production
- The fields will yield no harvests
- The cattle and sheep will be lost
Losing all these things at once would put a major strain on the economy and the people of the land.
We know this to be true. Over the last couple of years our country experienced economic hardship because of COVID. People have lost their jobs, their homes. Inflation is on the rise.
COVID has not only effected the economy, it has also effect us personally. Some people have had to go without food and other basic necessities. Others have seen their marriages erode. Still others have lost loved ones. Others have lost their homes. Some have had to move away from friends and family to find work.
Surely, everything everyone has faced over these last couple of years has caused: An immense amount of stress, worry, anxiety, and tension.
I am sure Habakkuk felt these things too. But look at how he responds in verse 18:
"yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Hab 3:18)
How can that be? How can Habakkuk rejoice? How can he take joy in God? He is able to rejoice, thank, and praise God because God is unchanging.
Habakkuk says he will rejoice in the “Lord” — Yahweh — the great I AM. The One who is eternal and unchanging.
While things in this world change, God doesn’t!
In Malachi 3:6 we read,
"“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Mal 3:6)
In Hebrews 13:8, we learn:
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb 13:8)
God doesn’t change! Since God doesn’t change, we can rejoice!
We can be thankful, even though everything around us changes because we know we can count on the Lord. His promises to us will not go unanswered.
(2) We can praise God in difficult times because we have salvation (v.18)
As much as we would like to think life is stable and certain, it isn't. In reality, we are never far from problems in this life.
Not too long ago my dad told me about a guy on his softball team who was diagnosed with stomach cancer. One week he was playing alongside my dad in a softball tournament. The next week he was sitting in a doctor's office being told he had stage 4 stomach cancer for which there was nothing they could do. He died in a matter of months.
Life is fragile and uncertain.
Or take my mom for instance. One day she noticed that one of her fingertips was turning black. After a series of tests, she was diagnosed with Scleroderma, a disease that changed her life and ultimately took it.
Life is fragile and uncertain.
Or consider my grandma. One night she went to bed just as she always did. At some point in the middle of the night, she had a stroke, which left half her body paralyzed and her unable to speak. She lived the rest of her life in a nursing home being cared for 24 hours a day.
Life is fragile and uncertain.
In February of last year, we heard about a new virus that was ravaging China. Eventually it made its way to the States. In March of 2020, life as we know it changed. Most everyone here has experienced some sort of loss because of COVID.
Life is fragile and uncertain.
But God is not fragile! God is not uncertain! Our salvation does not hang in the balance, it is a sure thing. Everything else can be taken from us — Our job, house, health, ability to communicate, our freedom, and even our life, but our salvation is certain. In Romans 8:1 Paul writes,
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Ro 8:1)
Those who have repented of their sins and believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior are no longer in fear of God’s punishment. That’s because Jesus has taken our punishment for us. When Jesus died on the cross, God’s wrath was poured out on Him, and all those who are in Christ no longer have to fear His judgment because there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”
Since God is unchanged our salvation is always certain. For that we can be thankful, even in the uncertainties and difficulties of life. Since our salvation is certain we can and should praise God!
(3) We can praise God in difficult times because God is Sovereign (v.19)
God being sovereign means that He is in control of everything. As the One who is in control, He either causes or allows everything to happen according to His eternal decree. Hearing that might make us uncomfortable because it means there are things that happen that God could have stopped but doesn’t. But while God’s sovereignty may initially make us uncomfortable, it ultimately should comfort us because it means God is in control and He can and will work all things out according to His eternal plan. Isn’t that what we learn God is doing in the book of Romans? In Romans 8:28 we read,
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Ro 8:28)
When Paul says this, he doesn't mean that everything will work out just hunky-dory for those who are Christians. Or that every bad thing actually has a “silver lining” Or that every terrible thing is somehow actually a good thing if you learn to look at it properly. That is not what Paul is saying.
Instead what he is saying is that God will ultimately use everything in our lives to glorify Himself and bring us to salvation. The only way that can happen is if God is sovereign.Is if He is in control of everything. Indeed He is, which is why He can work all things for good.
Even the difficult things we face have a purpose — it is meant to bring us to salvation and to glorify God.
We may not understand how that is the case, but God does. Since God is sovereign we can praise and thank Him even in difficult times.
(4) We can be thankful in difficult times because we are triumphant in Christ (v. 19)
In Christ, we are triumphant over the evil in our lives now because none of it will separate us from God (Rom. 8:31-39). We will be triumphant over our enemies in the future when Jesus returns because He will vindicate us and destroy our enemies once and for all (Rev. 19-22).
Before Jesus returns, we will face difficult situations, but none of them will ultimately defeat us because God will keep us in Christ. In Christ, we will be and are victorious and triumphant. When we face difficult situations, we should thank God because He gives us the strength to continue in the faith, and He will one day free us from those situations, conquering our enemies and ushering in a New Heavens and New Earth where we will live in sinless perfection for all eternity.
When you face difficulties in this life, and you will, don’t run from God, rather run to Him, praising and thanking Him for all you have in Him despite the difficulties and hardship you are experiencing.
It is not easy but by remembering that:
- God doesn’t change.
- He provides us with salvation.
- He is Sovereign.
- He causes us to be triumphant in Christ.
Knowing and resting in these truths about God, should make it possible for us to stand and say with Habakkuk,
“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” (Hab 3:18–19)”
Question for Reflection
- What else allows us to praise the Lord during difficult times?