When Life Doesn't Feel Calm and Bright

“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 […] Yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, Able to tread upon the heights.” Habakkuk 3: 17-19

Last month we celebrated Christmas, and I read Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift to celebrate the season of Advent. Each day was filled with truth I needed to hear, but this chapter on Habakkuk hit the nail on the head for me when it came to reflecting on the end of this year.

2021 was not easy for me, and I imagine in many ways, it was not easy for you either. Coming off the dramatic shift that 2020 brought to literally every area of life, I thought “Okay, that was hard. But 2021 will be back to normal! Things will never be that hard again.” And in some ways they weren’t, but the weariness of 2020 basically snowballed throughout 2021 for me. Things weren’t back to normal like I thought they’d be. There was still anxiety, disappointment, and loss to wade through. There were (and are) still so many unknowns leaving me paralyzed and afraid.

Yet Voskamp’s words proved to be a spark of light in the cold, blistering darkness:

“In the barrenness of winter, Habakkuk offers this gift to always carry close: rejoicing in the Lord happens while we still struggle in the now.

Struggling and rejoicing are not two chronological steps […] but two concurrent movements, one fluid with the other.

As the cold can move you deeper toward the fire, struggling can move you deeper toward God, who warms you with joy. Struggling can deepend joy” (Voskamp 188-189).

Ah, struggling can deepen joy. If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that God does not allow us to suffer, to wade through the hard things in life, because He’s punishing us or because we aren’t good/doing enough. Jesus promises in John 16:33 that “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world!”

Suffering is a guarantee, whether you’re ten or eighty years old. Yet even in the darkness, even in the bleakness of the winter of our souls, Christ is there with us. He is light, the peace in the storm. And like Ann Voskamp says, if we let it, our suffering can draw us closer to Him.

So as we start a brand new year, sure to be filled with both joy and suffering, my prayer is that we’d be able to see whatever situation we are in through the eyes of the Christmas hymn “Silent Night” when it says “All is calm, all is bright”.

In the darkness, in the chaos of the world, our hearts are able to cry “All is calm! My heart is at peace because my Savior loves me and is with me.” and “All is bright! Christ’s Light is the hope of my heart and the hope of the world. The darkness I see is not dark to Him (Psalm 139:12). His word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, leading and guiding me towards the joy, hope, and peace only He can give (Psalm 119:105).”

May you see His light, and may you be filled with hope and peace for all that is to come.

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