“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.” habbakuk 3:17-18
maybe it was on this same day last year while working through my bible reading plan that i journaled about what these kinds of circumstances would mean for a person back in the times of habbakuk. so much for all that hard labor. you would have no food and possibly no source of income. and this wasn’t the kind of thing that lasted a week. you would have to wait for the next harvest season, assuming you could even acquire more seed to start over again. and who knows when you would ever have a herd or flock again. maybe never. maybe you’ve managed to lose not only your source of living, but also your livelihood and purpose in all that suffering.
the thing about following Jesus in seasons like that kind of suffering is it isn’t just a call to choose joy in God when things are bad. what i’m learning in this mourning that i’m going through in the loss of my mom is that this kind of following Jesus in seasons like this involves a call to choose joy in God when things are bad and it doesn’t look like things will get better anytime soon.
choosing God when things are temporarily bad really isn’t that hard because there isn’t really time to weigh your options. you choose joy in God because He is the obvious option and the suffering is usually over before you’ve had time to think about choosing anyone or anything else. maybe that kind of thing, that kind of joy in suffering, is just some illusion of choice. like going to a vending machine when you don’t have time to eat something better and being told you can have whatever you want — knowing that what you can really have is anything you want that is in the machine. it’s not a choice really. you just choose what you can in that little bit of time you have to spare. it’s like that in temporary moments of suffering. you choose God because you can and because there is no time to consider anything else. and maybe, if we’re all being honest, there’s that part of your heart that thinks that in choosing Him you will find the end of that temporary suffering.
and maybe you will.
but what if there are more choices and what if you have more time to choose? what i mean is what if the suffering lasts longer? there’s something deeper and more sacred about choosing God even though you know that that choice doesn’t make things better. there’s something deeper and more sacred about choosing God for God, not for the end of the darkest days. in those seasons of suffering long it becomes about knowing that suffering awaits, not relief. and that suffering will endure day after day. do you choose God then? i do.
because even then He is worthy of rejoicing in.
even then the God of my salvation is worth taking joy in.
and i feel like it’s that kind of season of suffering long that i’m up against. i’m up against the hardest year of my life with no real promise of reprieve. it’s been a little over four weeks since i said goodbye to my mom and in so many ways this is just the beginning. you see, i started school and i didn’t realize how much of my love of learning was wrapped up in my love of my mom. it feels so different to learn now knowing i can’t share any of it with her. and in about four more weeks i will have my 25th birthday. and on that day i won’t get a text from mom at midnight even though she always, always stayed up until midnight for me. and a few days after that her birthday will come. i think i’ll go to the store and get her a card and write about how much i love her. but i’ll never be able to give it to her. and then will come the holidays, that time of year that i consistently got to spend the most time with her. and well, that’s just the forecast for the next four months.
looking out at that i have a daily choice to make. daily, knowing that awaits and so much more sadness and sorrow and hurt and tears, i will choose to rejoice in the Lord and to take joy in the God of my salvation. because He is worth it. still.
today’s margin note: it’s in suffering that you will learn if you love God for God. choose joy in the midst of suffering, even when that choice won’t bring about its end. choose joy because God is worth it, even in the darkest days.