“Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit 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 triumph in Yahweh; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! Yahweh my Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights!”
Habakkuk 3:17-19 HCSB
I have recently come out of a desert season in my spiritual life. The sand is still fresh between my toes, the spiritual hunger pangs gnawing at my heart, my soul deeply thirsty, and my spirit weary. Entering into Thanksgiving Break and anticipating the holiday with all its festivities and reminders of abundance and blessing in this state has opened my eyes to a new perspective on what it means to be thankful, full of thanks.
If you are full of sorrow, anger, bitterness, and exhaustion, there is little room left for thanks.
If you are full of everything that comforts, numbs, makes happy, and coaxes the conscience into sleepiness, there is little room left for thanks.
When you are in a state of holy emptiness, then you are a set apart vessel prepared to be filled with thanks.
Habakkuk’s psalm of thanksgiving is the perfect example of what it means to be in a state of holy emptiness. When you have lost what you held dear and thought you needed, bitterness threatens. When you have suffered and been battered emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually, exhaustion threatens. When God seems far distant and you don’t know how to trust a God who appears to be dragging you into dark valleys and leaving you to stumble through the shadows alone, anger and sorrow send piercing roots into the soil of your soul.
This was my experience over the past year. My aunt died this summer, and it was the last brick in a crushing load. I collapsed into the bitterness, exhaustion, anger, and sorrow I had bravely been battling for some time. I stopped swinging at the fears and lies and began throwing my punches at God. How could He let all this pain keep overtaking me? How could He be good? How could I trust Him?
His answer emptied me. He let me beat against His chest until I had stopped fighting the pain and simply poured it out all over Him. Then He whispered into my silence: “I am with you. I share in your sufferings. Now come; share in Mine. This is not cruelty. This is communion.”
There will be moments when we feel crushed, but though we are pressured on every side, He takes the brunt of the pressure. He was crushed on the cross so that we will never be. There will be moments when we feel abandoned, but though we are persecuted, He was abandoned on the cross so that we will never be alone. We are pressured and brought to a place of loneliness so that the numbing effects of the world’s pleasures and comforts might be drained from our swollen souls and our old man, our flesh, stripped away like grave clothes. To be emptied like Habakkuk’s fields and made bare like his vines is to be set aside by God as a holy vessel to be filled with Him. If we will rest as Habakkuk did in the goodness of our Savior God in the midst of this emptiness, we will find ourselves in a posture to be thanks full.
Where are you this Thanksgiving? Are you in a place of abundance? Celebrate! Do not feel guilty. But hold loosely these things that bring you happiness. Find time frequently to enter the lonely place of quiet time with God and surrender back to Him all the blessings He is showering on you so that you will not be too full of the gifts to be filled by the Giver.
But maybe you are in a barren place of bitterness this season. My dear friend, be glad! Do not get me wrong, I know it hurts. I grieve with you in the pain. But know that you have been favored. Here in this place you are uniquely positioned to share in Christ’s sufferings, pouring yourself out like a drink offering before Him and being filled by Him who is near the broken-hearted. Commune with Him in the midst of your unknowns and darkness, and find a safe place, a haven of rest, where He alone satisfies, for then your soul will be satisfied to the utmost and you may truly be made full of thanks.