Coping with a Crisis: Habakkuk 3:17-19

Habakkuk (pronounced “hah-BACK-uck”) is one of a set of a dozen books found at the very end of the Old Testament. He’s one of the Minor Prophets, which refers not to the importance of the book, but its length. Even though these books are small in comparison to the other Old Testament writings, including the much longer Major Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, they contain some powerful teaching. 

One of the most inspiring passages in all of the Minor Prophets is found at the conclusion of Habakkuk’s little book. His writing focuses on the seeming injustice that God would permit Judah to be conquered by a more ungodly nation like Babylon. After he considers this enigmatic issue, he concludes that he will nevertheless always defer to God’s plan: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

Consider three components to this passage, which can teach us how to cope with a catastrophe:

(1) THE DISASTERS WE EXPERIENCE: “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” (ESV). In verse 17, Habakkuk gives a catalog of devastation that a military invasion – or any natural or man-made disaster for that matter – would leave in its wake. Perhaps the first step in maneuvering through misfortune is coming to terms that hardships exist in our world and sometimes – for perhaps no reason we can discern – they become an uninvited part of our lives. Job shared this observation: “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).

(2) THE DEVOTION WE EXPRESS: “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk resolves in verse 18 to nevertheless trust in God and to rejoice in Him. This was suggested with his opening verse 17 with “although” – the problems were not going to deprive him of his joy. We can choose that our circumstances will not define us. This type of reaction is also seen in Job: “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 2:21) and in the New Testament, when Paul and Silas were “thrust … into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:24-25). When we grasp that every experience is designed to glorify God (and not us), we will be able to sing praises to Him through the calamity. 

(3) THE DELIVERANCE WE EXPECT: “The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.” Habakkuk’s  faith was fueled by his confidence in God’s sustaining him through any hardship. Life on the other side of the struggle could be very different from what we might have preferred, yet we can endure. The way we cope, Habakkuk says, is by taking on the persona and special ability of the hind, a mountain deer. This creature is associated in Hebrew literature with swiftness and agility: “He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet: and setteth me upon my high places” (II Samuel 22:34). A similar thought is in the saying, “When God sends us over stony ground, He will give us strong shoes.” The Lord will equip us with the mindset and spiritual resources to adapt our inner world to His way for life; and the Lord will provide in the material world those things that are needed for us to fulfill His purpose through our situation. In this way, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).

The Lord hasn’t promised to change our circumstances to suit us, but to suit us to our circumstances. He changes us so that we are equipped for any condition or circumstance. Let’s allow Him to reshape and mold us through our submitting to His word.