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.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Hab 3:17–19.
I was in Port Charlotte, Florida last weekend to speak at my former church, Freedom Bible Church. I was scheduled to stay until Tuesday. But, as forecasts for Hurricane Ian came in, I decided to leave on Sunday right after church, hoping to get ahead of the traffic that would certainly come when people started evacuating. This proved to be wise.
Before moving to North Carolina in 2009, we lived in southwest Florida for about 24 years. It was providential that I happened to return last weekend right before the area was hit with the devastation from Ian. For reconnecting with my friends there renewed my love for them and has given a sense of immediacy as I hear updates from so many on social media.
Again and again, the refrain is something like, “We’re safe, some damage to the roof, some trees downed; God is good.”
But what of those who lost all? What of those whose lives were not spared? Was God not good for them?
We often connect the goodness of God with our personal fortune. If things aren’t as bad as they could be, then God has been good to us.
But I don’t believe this is what my friends are saying. I think deep down what they continue to recognize is the goodness and the grace of God which is not negated by misfortune. If they had lost all possessions (and some have) or even life itself (and some have), they would still affirm that God. Is. Good.
It is as my former pastor, the late James Kibelbek, once said, “We don’t measure God’s goodness by our circumstances; we measure our circumstances by the knowledge that God is good.”
Habakkuk understood this: “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).
Some people choose in times like this to question the very existence of God, or at least his power or goodness. “How could a good and powerful God allow such suffering?” Habakkuk chose to rejoice in the Lord, to take joy in the God who saves.
I love that expression – to take joy. We must seize it, willfully grasp for it, intentionally take hold of it. For our joy is in the God who saves.
The fact is, we don’t deserve the house that got destroyed in the first place; it is a gift from God. We don’t deserve the life, however long or short, that is snuffed out; every breath is a grace.
What life we have, no matter the degree of suffering, is more than we deserve.
I take heart from all my friends who are using this time of unimaginable devastation to proclaim the goodness and faithfulness of God our Savior!