“I will rejoice in the Lord. I will rejoice in the God of my deliverance.”
It is well that our nation has an annual holiday that prompts expressions of gratitude. Expressions of thanksgiving rarely well-up in the hearts of many people. It is not a natural impulse many days. Inhibitions to thankfulness are abundant – war, hunger, poverty, crime and loneliness. Each results in fear and a scramble for basic survival. Our lives are fragmented. So, Thanksgiving Day each November prompts us to spontaneous joy and gratitude.
For some, we wonder if it is quite seemly to give thanks for what we have when others have not. It is nice to wish that the world has every reason to be thankful as we. But it is not true. Yet, Jesus provides us with an example. Jesus lived in the midst of poverty. The Palestine of his day was not flowing with sufficient food and basic necessities. There were people who could not pray with thankful hearts. Abundance simply wasn’t a familiar experience in their lives. But this did not stop Jesus from giving thanks before each meal. And it just may be that Jesus’ thankfulness became a plea for others to have the same ground for thankfulness.
What is remarkable about these words of gratitude from Habakkuk is where they are located. They immediately follow considerable disappointment. “Though the fig tree doesn’t bloom, and there’s no produce on the vine; though the olive crop withers, and the fields don’t provide food; though the sheep is cut off from the pen, and there is no cattle in the stalls; I will rejoice in the Lord.” Here, there is nothing but stark loss. But Habakkuk gives thanks nonetheless.
Habakkuk prompts us to trust in the Lord even when there seems to be little reason to do so. Seasons appear in any life when experience seems to deny any reason for gratitude. The crops have failed and livestock appear to be in short supply. But rather than focusing on the immediate, Habakkuk takes a longer view of life. The source of gratitude is not on the present but in the certainty of God’s promises. Habakkuk reminds us that we belong to a God who is at work in history, reconciling all things and securing wholeness; a God who will not rest until we have received deliverance from all that seeks to destroy us.