Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places. — HABAKKUK 3:17?19
For thirty years, I have loved and identified with this Scripture. It’s from a tiny book — only three chapters. Pastors rarely preach from it. For years I didn’t even know how to pronounce its name.
But I loved to read the passage aloud, marveling at the rhythm and beauty of the words and at the prophet’s astonishing faith — his stubborn, determined faith that nothing could alter. Nothing. As my own faith began to be tested some time ago, I’d find myself praying like Habakkuk, just to see what it felt like. Sometimes I wasn’t certain I really meant it, but the more I prayed my situation into Habakkuk’s declaration of faith, the more I did, truly, mean it.
Though my husband does not get healed, and the new CAT scan doesn’t show what we want, and I have to raise these children alone, and I have no idea how to do that, I will put my total trust in the Lord. He’ll have to show me how to get through this. He’ll have to show me step by step.
Ever since I was a small child I’ve been afraid of getting lost. One day, driving on an unfamiliar expressway heading toward South Carolina (I live in Georgia, and I hadn’t wanted to go to South Carolina), I prayed out loud:
“Though I’ve taken the wrong exit and have no idea where I am and don’t know how to turn around and am about to burst out crying and it feels as though I may just drive off the face of the earth and I’m becoming more frightened by the mile, I will, yes indeed, I will trust in God — the God who saved me and who knows exactly where I am. I’m going to praise Him right now and believe that He’ll show me a way to turn around. He can do it!”
Through the years I’ve mentioned these verses of Habakkuk to friends, and even to strangers. Once in a while someone else will get excited about it with me. But a lot of people just let me go on and on and then excuse themselves from the conversation.
Then in April of 2001 I was having lunch with Karen Barber, a writer friend of mine. We’d spent some time in prayer before eating, and so as we ate our salads I mentioned Habakkuk 3:17?19. “I can’t believe no one’s written a book about this Scripture, Karen. It’s so powerful and. . . .”
“Did you ever think that you are that someone, Marion?” Karen asked.
“No, no, not me! No more books and no more children.”
She smiled. “Have you prayed about it?”
I shook my head, my salad forgotten. “I don’t want to do another book. I’m not going to do one!”
Karen graciously dropped the subject, but a few days later I got a note from her. She assured me that she was continuing to pray about two important matters in my life and added, “I’m also praying about the book of encouragement that you aren’t writing.”
My mouth flew open. Just two days before in church, for some crazy reason I’d made a hurried outline of a book. The section titles were verses from Habakkuk 3. Just to enjoy writing the words, I told myself.
Still clutching Karen’s note, I phoned her. My mouth was suddenly dry and my heart was pounding. She answered on the second ring. “Karen,” I said, “I made an outline in church Sunday, but I couldn’t possibly write a book! I’m just playing around with the words — sort of like a crossword puzzle. Anyway, I’ve never written a book or an article from an outline. I don’t even know how to make an outline!”
She laughed — a kind of holy laughter — and added gently, “Oh, I think God’s had you in mind for a book like this for a long time now.”
Though I have no idea how to write another book — even about Habakkuk 3:17?19, and I don’t have the time or energy and probably no one would want to publish it, and I’d just be working hard for nothing, and most likely no one would want to read such a book . . .
Yet, I will trust You, Lord. You’ll have to show me exactly how to do this, step by step, and give me tons of strength and enthusiasm, because right now it seems like a ridiculous idea. Totally impossible.
Excerpt from Praying for My Life by Marion Bond West. Copyright © 2006 by Marion Bond West. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from GuidepostsBooks, 16 E. 34th St., New York, NY 10512, guidepostsbooks.com.