Read Habakkuk 3:17-19
17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights. (NLT)
It has been said that our faith journey passes through at least three stages. The first stage is that of a basically simple faith that rests secure in the knowledge that God and Jesus are who they said they are. Then the second stage happens when something happens to upset our formerly neat understanding. We have to wrestle with personal disappointment and suffering. Our questions are not so easily answered.
It is at this point that some give up on faith: it hasn’t worked,hasn’t produced the goods,has instead thrown up paradoxes and mysteries that we can’t explain. But if we go on clinging to the basic truths of God’s faithfulness we can instead move on to a third stage of faith which is deeper and richer. We come to realise that what we believe about God and Jesus in one sense remains solid,but our challenge is to relate this belief to what is happening in our life.
So we become disoriented. But hopefully not to lose direction: rather to be reoriented. Which is a bit like Habakkuk the prophet. His secure faith in God was challenged by the evil he saw in his midst. When God told him that evil people would execute his justice against the evil amongst his own people it caused Habakkuk to reorient his faith.
And as our passage indicates,this reoriented faith recognises the hardships and paradoxes and does not retreat into pretentious pieties. It clings to faith even though circumstances might seem to render it futile. It is the sort of faith,it seems,that only comes to us when that faith is seriously put to the test. We grow in faith by having it tested.