Friday, May 25, 2007

How Can I be Happy?

Someone may read the last post about An Explosion of Joy and think I've lost my mind. The question inevitably comes up, "How can I be happy? If you knew what I go through, you'd realize how difficult it is to be happy in my marriage. I love the gospel, but my marriage is another story. I'd love for my marriage to be more missional, but right now I just want it to be tolerable."

The Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, speaks to us in the middle of our trials. Habakkuk complained to God about the wickedness he saw in the land of Judah. God promised a coming judgment at the hands of the Babylonians. They were known for their fierceness, and they would show no mercy to Judah. This left Habakkuk with a bigger complaint. How can God judge Judah with a wicked people like the Babylonians? Upon reflection, Habakkuk ends his prophesy with these words in 3:17-18:
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 stall, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. (ESV)
Habakkuk was discouraged by the wickedness of Judah and the coming judgment. He didn't see prosperous times on the horizon. He was living in a funk and had no hope of better circumstances around the corner. This is where many people live in their marriages every day. They are discouraged and tired. They are always looking a little farther ahead, praying for some change in scenery that will bring relief. Perhaps there's an illness that taxes energy and finances. Maybe money is tight and the couple lashes out at each other under the stress. Or it could be the little bickering all day long that seems insurmountable. Over time, those little barbs can leave large welts.

Whatever the circumstances, Habakkuk could have related! When Habakkuk looked ahead, he saw famine. When the mainstay of your nation's economy is agriculture, you want figs on the trees, fruit on the vines, fields of grain, pastures speckled with sheep and stalls full of livestock. Habakkuk wasn't discouraged because he might have to give up satellite television! He might die of starvation. What sustained Habakkuk? How did he get through trying and uncertain times?

Habakkuk resolved to rejoice in God regardless of earthly circumstances. We must look beyond all the good gifts of this life to the God who gives them. He is better than his gifts. God is more valuable than life on earth. So when Habakkuk ponders starvation and severe calamity, his response is joy. People who have no greater hope than a little better lot in life tomorrow cannot appreciate Habakkuk's attitude. It will seem utterly foreign. But for those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, trials (like an unpleasant marriage) can be endured; and yes, even nurtured to display the wonderful gospel that redeems our life from the pit.

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