The Song of a Suffering Saint

Habakkuk 3:17-19

For the last three chapters Habakkuk has been crying out to the Lord, lamenting to Him about the wickedness of his people and bravely bringing his doubts and fears to God. He has seen the depth of his people’s sin as they have engaged in child sacrifice, sorcery, necromancy, and worship of pagan gods. Habakkuk understands that Judah deserves God’s wrath because of their rebellion, but he beseeches God to be merciful to His people.

But beneath Habakkuk’s grief and heartbreak, there is a deep trust in the sovereign, faithful, and compassionate character of God. Habakkuk has faith in God’s covenantal promise to preserve the nation of Israel. He has a faith so deep that in the middle of the darkest suffering, he is able to sing. In the last verses of chapter 3, after three chapters of discussing with the Lord the impending suffering of his people, Habakkuk writes, “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.” How is he able to praise the Lord in the midst of such desolation?

Habakkuk’s song echoes the words of the Psalmist when he proclaims, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (Psalm 46:1-3). This genuine praise and hope is not something that Habakkuk or the Psalmist are able to generate on their own. The praise that emerges from the lips of a suffering saint is one that is only empowered by the strength of the Holy Spirit within them.

We as Christians can learn from Habakkuk’s brave lament and deep trust. Despite dwelling in the darkest of times, he was able to unshakably cling to the truth of God’s character as a gracious and merciful Father. It is a hard question to consider, but ask yourself this: if every single good material thing was stripped from you today, would you still be able to trust the Lord and rejoice in Him as good and gracious? When the crisis comes, and I say ‘when’ because it will come, when the money is gone, when the relationship ends, when a loved one dies, when everything is going wrong… will you be able to choose to sing to the Lord in praise? Only by His grace and His strength will we be able to answer “yes” to this question. Just as the prophet was able to trust in the character of God because of His covenantal promise, we too are able to trust in the promise that God is working all things for our good and for His glory and that Christ will return and set all things right in the end. We are therefore able to have immense joy in the time of suffering because Christ Himself is our present joy and our future hope. Let us not be thankless and praiseless because we are in a season of sorrow or trial. Instead, may our pain and loss bring praise to our lips as we are reminded that our Savior is our only true comfort and our only true rest.

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