Suffering Is Everywhere, But God Provides Us This Comfort

In this verse, Habakkuk gives us a picture of his own time that is painfully familiar to us today.

“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.” Habakkuk 3:17

We do not have to be convinced of the fact that the world is full of disorder. Suffering is everywhere. We see it in our homes, in our city streets, in the ever present realities of hunger, poverty, and disease. The horror of war and terror seems to stalk the world without relief. Floods overwhelm some parts of the world, and in other parts, drought destroys the fragile well being of those on the economic margins. Chaos seems to reign everywhere. We hunger for justice, but often feel it is a distant dream.

In this verse, Habakkuk gives us a picture of his own time that is painfully familiar to us today. This is the direct consequence of original sin. So much of the suffering and chaos we experience is the result of the collective sinful choices of humankind since The Fall. Yet, even in the midst of the suffering, Habakkuk expresses something surprising, that is, an unconquerable faith and hope. In this hymn, after enumerating all of the real and potential woes, he sings, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord.” This is our meditation for the day. How can we endure the sufferings that come our way, either uninvited, or as a result of our own choices? How can we rejoice in the Lord when it seems all hell has broken loose around us? We can only do this through faith and love.

The American philosopher, George Santayana once wrote, “Even in the midst of war there is room for thoughts of love.” In human terms we know that this is possible. But, if we truly believe that God, out of his love for us, let go of divinity and took on human form, entering into the chaos of the sinful world, even to the point of enduring suffering and death, we can begin to see that this divine love truly does have the power to overcome the chaos of sin and death, once and for all. If we really believe this, we can indeed rejoice in the Lord. Have we not seen the proof of this power in the person of Jesus?

Jesus calls on us to love one another as he loved us. (John 13:34-35) It is in our acceptance of this challenge to live in accord with this divine love that God give us the graces we need to be the quiet eye of peace in the midst of the roiling storm of chaos that is the world. In faith, then, we can, like Habakkuk, “rejoice in the Lord.” It is God who give us this strength to endure and to overcome. In God we have our hope. Though the world seems to be falling apart around us, we can rejoice in the Lord, for the Lord is our hope, our guide, and our strength.

In you Lord we put our faith. Give us the courage to carry on in love, even in the midst of our suffering. Through your love for us you have turned the darkness of despair into the light of hope. In you we rejoice. In you we find meaning in the midst of our suffering. Help us to be a small example of your love to others in our daily lives. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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