Question: "How can we learn to trust God like the prophet Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:17-19)?"
Answer: Despite the questions the prophet Habakkuk had concerning the evil taking place during his time, he concludes his oracle with positive words of praise. Habakkuk expresses his faith in God in a hymn: “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” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
How can we learn to trust God in this way? A closer look at these verses reveals some concepts that help us to trust God more.
First, Habakkuk commits to praising God regardless of external circumstances. The opening of his hymn delineates a catastrophe: 1) no fruit on the fig trees, 2) no grapes growing on the vines, 3) no olives, 4) no produce of any kind, 5) a lack of sheep, and 6) a lack of cattle. After this doleful description, the prophet says, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.”
Habakkuk’s joy was not dependent on physical blessings. Even if Habakkuk suffered extreme loss, he was determined to praise God. Habakkuk remembered God’s goodness in times past and concluded God was worthy of praise. The prophet might lack olives and grapes, but he would never be without God.
Second, Habakkuk praises God specifically for salvation: “I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” God not only could save; God is salvation. Interestingly, the title “God of my salvation” is used seven times in the Old Testament. Five of these are found in the Psalms (18:26; 25:5; 27:9; 51:14; 88:1), one in Habakkuk, and the other in Micah 7:7.
Third, Habakkuk recognizes the Lord as His strength: “GOD, the Lord, is my strength.” This statement is the central focus of Habakkuk’s hymn. The theme becomes apparent when the literary structure is diagrammed as follows:
A1 “I will . . .”
A2 “I will . . .”
X “GOD, the Lord, is my strength”
B1 “he makes . . .”
B2 “he makes . . .”
After two statements of the prophet’s determination come two mentions of what God will accomplish on his behalf. In between, we find “God, the Lord, is my strength.”
The truth of God’s present strength caused Habakkuk to trust God even during the most difficult times. Like Habakkuk, we can choose to praise God even in the face of desolation. Like Habakkuk, we can praise God for the salvation He provides in Jesus Christ. And, by seeing God as our source of strength, we, like Habakkuk, can trust God’s promises.