Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Joy Even in Fruitlessness

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.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
(Habakkuk 3:17-19)

At a healing conference I attended last week, someone read this Scripture as a word of encouragement--and I knew it was for me.

I have been wrestling with feelings of discouragement, worry and doubt about things that are not as they should be, about fruit that is not coming forth or fruit that seems to be frostbitten and stunted. I have these questions about the work we put into our kids, our marriage, our church and other relationships, and about what I see in my own life.

This blog is an example. My style is to write candidly and honestly, yet there are huge situations in my life that I just cannot share with the internet. It feels so fake to chat blithely on about kids and musicals and hamsters and summertime, yet so gloomy to hint vaguely at difficult things I am struggling through. I find myself unable to write, or able only to write about news and activities, rather than the deeper things I am pondering. Potential fruit dies on the vine.

This Scripture quickened joy and purpose in my heart once again. 

This passage is not about outcomes in the usual sense. Other Scriptures seem to expect and encourage fruit-bearing--the fruits of the Spirit, he who abides in Christ will bear much fruit. This passage encourages one outcome only. It's not about the harvest, and it's something which is entirely within my control. (Oh, and how I long for control!)

No matter what happens, even when the harvest is nonexistent, I can rejoice in the Lord. I can choose joy.

I can let God be my strength.

I fall so easily into the trap of thinking I have to do something to produce fruit. In my own strength, I try to accomplish something, even if it's not what the still, small voice would instruct me. Or I urge others on (or nag, cajole, threaten, or lecture) toward outcomes I desire, which are good fruit, no doubt--growth in character, in godliness, in excellence, in service.

But am I right to feel disappointment or discouragement when I don't see the fruit my heart longs for? Is it right to compare my harvest with what others are reaping? Is it right to seek someone to blame?

It's not up to me to produce a harvest. I have so little control over that.

It's my job to do faithfully, joyfully, the next thing God asks of me. In his strength and joy, I can rise above my worries and doubts. My heart can dwell in the high places with him.

Related:  Choosing Joy, a post I wrote in 2007.

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