Words of Strength

Here is January's Words of Strength. Remember it is easily accessible all month long from the tab above, and year round from the archive at the right.  

New Year
By Kristi Bothur © 2011

“Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told” (Habakkuk 1:5, NIV)

How many of you are ready to say good-bye to 2011? Perhaps it's been a particularly hard year in terms of sickness or family problems or issues at work or finances. For me, New Year's Day usually carries a feeling of hope. The old year (and anything about it that wasn't good) is done; the new year is beginning. Not that there is anything magical about 12:01 a.m. on January 1, but it reminds me that I can begin again, and that maybe the future will be brighter than the past was.

I wonder if that is something the prophet Habakkuk was looking for when he began his prayer to God that is recorded in the book he wrote. He begins his book of prophecy by crying out to God about the violence and wrongdoing going on in Israel, and God responds with verse 5: "I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told."

If I were Habakkuk, I would have been waiting with bated breath to hear God's incredible plan for redeeming Israel and restoring their fortunes. But that isn't what God had in mind. Instead, the rest of the book reveals that God's incredible, unbelievable plan was to use the ruthless Babylonians to bring His people back to Himself. Not exactly what Habakkuk had in mind, and he could not fathom how a pure and loving God could use wicked people to accomplish His purposes.

That is a question I have asked, too. How can God use the wicked, or pain, or suffering, or loss to accomplish His purposes? Wouldn't His purposes be much better served by wiping those things out altogether? Or at least giving His people a taste of such freedom that awaits us in the New Heaven and New Earth?

The answer given again and again in Scripture is that God's ways are not ours. I don't mean that as a panacea to a hurting heart, but it is true. God sees the big picture. He has a plan that is far bigger than my life alone, but one that, amazingly, does incorporate my life as well.

Habakkuk seemed to realize that too. By the end of his short book, his prayer was:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior (Habakkuk 3:18-19).

How do we do that? How do we rejoice in God even in the midst of heartache and troubles? Whenever I wonder that, I think back to the seminary course I took on the Old Testament prophets. My professor came in one morning to teach about the book of Habakkuk. He went through the history of the book, what was going on in Israel at the time, and what we could learn from it. Then, just before class ended, he told us that in a couple of hours, his wife was going to be undergoing heart surgery. He had come to school that morning to teach our class and would be going to the hospital next. He had no idea how the surgery would turn out, but his prayer was the same: "I will rejoice in God my Savior."

Fifteen years later, that class stands out in my mind as a living example of faith in times of trouble. What was my professor's secret? It's found in chapter 3, verse 19:
The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights."

So as we wait for 2012 and what it holds, I pray we will walk forward with anticipation and trust -- trust that the Lord is sovereign, that He is our strength, and that He is at work, even in the difficult seasons of life. Trust that He loves us and will walk with us and hold us through any hardship and suffering this side of heaven, and that in the end, He will enable us to walk on the high places.

May your new year hold not only the hope of new beginnings, but also the hope that can only be found in a renewed trust relationship with our God and Father.

Father, no matter what 2011 looked like, and no matter what 2012 holds, "yet I will rejoice" in You. Help me to find joy in You, regardless of my circumstances, and help me rely on You as my strength. Amen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristi Bothur is a pastor's wife, teacher, and mother of four - one on earth and three in heaven.  She has a heart for other women who have experienced the loss of children during pregnancy or in early infancy, and she has a passion for sharing the truth of God's word in a way that makes sense in everyday life.  She and her husband are the founders of "Naomi's Circle", a ministry for parents of babies in heaven (www.naomiscircle.weebly.com).  You are welcome to contact her at naomiscircle@gmail.com.  Kristi lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband and daughter.

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