16I trembled inside when I heard this;
my lips quivered with fear.
My legs gave way beneath me,
and I shook in terror.
I will wait quietly for the coming day
when disaster will strike the people who invade us.
17Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
18yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
19The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.
The transformation that takes place in Habakkuk between verse 16 and verse 19 is seismic in its scope. The prophet goes from looking around at the spiraling descent into sin to looking up at the unshakable mountains of God. This one choice to focus heavenward transforms his legs from shaky to solid and from slow to speedy. He goes from fearful to full of faith when his heart begins to climb to the high places. He goes from feeling stuck in sorrow to free to soar. Rather than a hopeless faith he now has nimble faith able to navigate the negative changes around him through the strength of His God. Instead of drowning in his problems Habakkuk is now looking down on his problems. Instead of clinging to the past he starts to climb into God’s future for him and his people. The whole book of Habakkuk reveals a raw account of a man of faith wrestling through the cruel reality of his world with His God. This candid conversation leads to the pinnacle of his faith declaration “18yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! 19The Sovereign Lord is my strength!”. This reveals that even if nothing changes around him, something has changed inside of him which changes how he sees what’s going on around him.
Like Habakkuk, I trembled inside on the way to church on Sunday when I heard about the mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio where 9 people were killed taking place less than 13 hours after a mass shooting during back-to-school shopping left 20 dead in El Paso. This was the 22nd mass killing in the United States in 2019. As I stood before our people that morning I had the same choice Habakkuk had. Focus on the tragedy and descend into terror or look up to the mountains where our help comes from. As we joined hands and prayed I felt the strength of the Spirit course through the room and envisioned the churches in the affected communities rising to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those families who had lost loved ones. It’s in these dark times that we can shine the brightest and call upward those who feel stuck in the valley of the shadow of death. Ephesians 2 reminds us “4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” He raised us so that we can raise others as long as we keep looking up when everything around is trying to drag us down.
Thank You, Jesus, for the powerful reminder from Habakkuk. We can be honest with you on how we feel in these troubled times, but ultimately we would come to see that the only way through is through Your strength. Keep me balanced in faith when fear tries to drag me down to its level.