I have been excitedly anxious to write since yesterday morning! As I opened my heart to God yesterday He led me, through the scripture references in my devotional “Jesus Calling”, to Habakkuk. Right! I had to reference the table of contents! Quite unfamiliar with this Old Testament prophet, I was none the less thoroughly encouraged and blessed by the verses I read. Honestly, I have been head-down, one day at time determined over the last few weeks as my family and I adjust to some changes. Good changes – God changes! – but still I found myself struggling! I continued to drive forward, knowing as I wrote earlier this week, God is my strength. I am at more peace about God’s will in my life than I ever have been before, but God’s will and call still comes with a stretching of our capacity sometimes! Thankfully, He is patient and kind and finds the perfect ways to encourage and remind me of His greatness…never condemning…never judging…just the kindness of a Father who holds my life in His hands. The following verses jumped off the page at me yesterday morning! And I believe that this is for someone besides just me! If things aren’t the way you thought they would be…if life is not adding up right now…if it’s just plain hard…I pray you open your heart to this most intimate lover of your soul. Our great Creator-God still reigns! He will prevail and no matter what the circumstances are like…there is joy to be had and strength to be gained as we recall and absorb Who He is.
Habakkuk 3: 1-2, 17-19 (the message)
A prayer of Habakkuk, with orchestra:
God, I’ve heard what our ancestors say about you,
and I’m stopped in my tracks, down on my knees.
Do among us what you did among them.
Work among us as you worked among them.
And as you bring judgment, as you surely must,
Though the cherry trees don’t blossom
and the strawberries don’t ripen,
Though the apples are worm-eaten
and the wheat fields stunted,
Though the sheep pens are sheepless
and the cattle barns empty,
I’m singing joyful praise to God.
I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God.
Counting on God’s Rule to prevail,
I take heart and gain strength.
I run like a deer.
I feel like I’m king of the mountain!
You may read that and think how could anyone turn cartwheels for God when they are at such a loss? When everywhere you look you see less than you expected and need more than you have! Maybe you thought by now your winter season should have passed and yet you see no signs of spring. The left-overs of a past victory and better times are worm-eaten and your prospects seem stunted. I implore you as you read this post…remember what you know about God! And if you don’t really know Him, then listen to the stories of those who know Him…be stopped in your tracks and get down on your knees! The Bible and the experiences of others are for more than just a sermon or Sunday School lesson…He will work in your life just the same!
You know when your cartwheel turning starts? You know when you can look into your “sheepless sheep pens” and sing joyful praise to God anyway? When you truly get a hold of the reality that He can be counted on and His Rule will prevail. See, what we do is count on the sheep pens to be full. We count on the cherry trees to blossom and the strawberries to ripen. Or you could say we count on people to love us the way we want or we count on the bank account to show certain numbers or we count on the doctor’s report to come out a certain way. The crux of the matter is those are variables you sometimes, many times, cannot yourself control. And if your cartwheels and praising are only for the days when Spring is in full bloom and you are living in an overflow, then you are at best going to live as James describes a “wind-whipped wave.”
Peace and provision, living saturated in the nearness of God, can be a constant no matter what. Living a life determined to really know Him, not about Him, will steady you and fix you no matter the gale force winds blowing through your life. The worst part about the storm is normally the exhaustion we experience from our worry and anxiety. God wants you to hear and believe that there is nothing on earth that can steal you from His hand…if you’ll only place yourself there. You can “take heart and gain strength” in letting go of what you believe your life must look like and add up to and your willful struggle to produce it. You can be filled with His strength and a joy that makes you want to “run like a deer” because your weight is lifted as you realize God is more than able to take care of you. And He will. He is.
Stop looking at a worm-eaten yesterday. Stop obsessing over the strawberries that haven’t yet ripened. Stop checking the cattle barns and sheep pens every five minutes to see if they returned. Stop worrying your prayers about when and why and just be with Jesus. Let Him fill you and renew your strength. Let His gentle hand tip your chin up so you can see Him. See, tears burn my eyes as I finish because you need to know that Jesus owns the cattle on a thousand hills and He knows where the strawberries are in full bloom. He can take you there, but you have to fix your eyes on Him and let Him lead you.
This is why you can begin your cartwheels and sing your song of joy now. Once you believe He is everything you need and the rest in incidental. Take the time to get lost in His gaze…take the time to Hear His voice…take the time to let His love and peace wash your anxiety away.
Go ahead, in spite of it all, and throw your hands up. Let the cartwheel turning begin and watch your praise and joyful expectation usher in new life.