Habakkuk? Really? I think I know where that is. Old Testament, right? I didn't pay much attention, if any, to the focus verse for the women's retreat. I just knew I wanted to go. A night away with friends, old and new, in the mountains. Someone else cooking; someone else cleaning; someone else planning. Who wouldn't want to go?
The first speaker was engaging and funny and hit home truths I had known for some time. Pride and fear separate us from our joy in Christ. Did you know Satan's name means "one who separates"? Interesting since the theme for the retreat was Inseparable. Sin is most often rooted in fear or pride, and sometimes both. Even if we understand this truth, we may not be able to avoid stepping off the path into sin. Perhaps we may only dip a toe in the waters to test them. Still, we sin.
The second speaker opened wide my eyes and my heart to what God wants from me - and you. Praise in the midst of all the mess. You see, her life has been turned upside down by someone else's actions. Her family has been ripped apart. Her world shattered. Just like you and I, she went through the list of "what ifs". You know them. "What if I had told someone what my life was really like?" "What if I had said this or done that?" What if? What if?
So, what do we do? How do we stay on track? How do we become inseparable from Christ even in the midst of our own sin or the results of someone else's? He tells us that nothing can separate us from His love. He still chooses to love. So we change our "what if" to "even when". Even when we lie. Even when we murder. Even when we steal. Even when we have idols. Even when we don't speak up. Even when ________. He loves us, even when. So, if Christ loves us and died for us even while we were still sinners, then why choose to not sin? We still get His love, right? Yes, thankfully we do. But when we sin, we step outside of His protection and blessing. We miss out on all the glorious things He has in store for us. We miss out on the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control that come only from having an intimate relationship with the God who created you, the Savior who died for you, and the Spirit who longs to empower you.
I want that power. I want to have a quiet and gentle spirit. I want to have self-control. If the only way to get there is through the Holy Spirit, then how do I accomplish my goal? Do I need special skills? A degree in theology? A big notebook and 27 sharpened no.2 pencils? A special Bible in a language I don't understand?
All that God requires of me is a willing heart. A heart for Him. A heart hungry and thirsty for Truth. A heart completely devoted to Him. A heart open to all the blessings. A heart willing to walk the narrow path. That's where it gets hard. The narrow path. Life is hard. I mean really hard. Children die, bank accounts overdraw, families splinter, crops wither, rains fall. We find ourselves bombarded daily with news of killings, floods, earthquakes, lost children. How do we keep a quiet and gentle spirit in the midst of so much tragedy?
We cling to God. We immerse ourselves in His Word. We flood our minds with His Truth. We surround ourselves with fellow believers. So that we too can be like Habakkuk and be able to say,
"Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, [though] the product of the olive fails and the fields yield no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the [victorious] God of my salvation!
The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds' feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!" ~Habakkuk 3:17-19 The Amplified Bible