May 20, 2012

Faith enables us to rejoice in hard times

My sisters asked me, “How did our parents afford to send us to college?” We knew they had very little money back then. Income from our small farm was good one year and poor the next.

We concluded that “sacrifice” was the only reasonable explanation. Our parents sacrificed for us. They denied themselves so their children could get an education. And believe me, we are still thankful for their sacrifice.

In the fifties, my father faced hard times despite his sacrifice for his children. He had to forfeit some land he had bought. Money was tight. Debts were piled high.

Without whimpering, dad took a job managing the farmers’ exchange. Now he could make ends meet. He would continue what farming he could on a part-time basis. I never heard him complain. Instead he maintained a positive spirit. He worked hard – from daylight till dark – not for himself but for his family.

I know now that he did not complain because he trusted a mighty God, the kind of God the prophet Habakkuk trusted. The kind of God he could believe in even when the fields yielded no fruit!

When the illness of our first child resulted in back-breaking medical expenses for me and my wife, dad and mom rescued us with food and as much money as they could spare. Dad said, “We will do everything we can to help you.” And they did.

Dad was a man of few words. Often those words were blunt. But he was a man of integrity. His word was his bond. If he told you something, you could count on it.

His family knew that he had backbone. His life was never easy. He worked hard all his life. But he never questioned or doubted God. His faith grew stronger as he grew older.

I think he had strength like that of Habakkuk. To pronounce correctly the prophet’s name, you must use the word “back.” So you pronounce his name “Huh-back-kuk.” In his back was a strong, God-given backbone! It was not made of Jell-0.

The prophet saw hard times coming. God was going to punish the people for their sins. But Habakkuk’s faith was not shaken. Indeed he believed God was in control, and nothing would be able to destroy the joy that God gives to his children who trust Him.

The little word “yet” is a powerful word. God’s people are “Yet People.” No matter how difficult the times, God’s people are able to say, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

Hallelujah! May God give us in our day a backbone like that of Habakkuk – so that no disaster can shake us loose from a faith grounded in the joy of the Lord.  +  +  +