A preacher's encouragement
22 May 2020 | Opinion
Hope is not easy to define, to achieve or to recover when lost. Recovering hope is not easy. Once hope is lost, it can lead to suicide. Therefore, we must be hopeful always, whenever and wherever.
Even if we are diagnosed with deadly diseases; even if we lose all our future investments; even if we lose our spouse due to divorce or death; even if we are informed that the company we work for no longer needs our services; even if we failed to win the heart of the girl we were planning a future with, there is hope.
Habakkuk (3:17-18) has set us an example: “Although 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 Saviour”.
These two verses describe a picture of hard times. Life is pictured at its most desolate point. There are no buds on the fig tree; only dry, lifeless branches. The vineyards are not producing vines, there are no crops from the olive orchard, there are no livestock in the kraals.
We can summarise it to mean no money or even food. This is the exact situation today in Namibia. People lost jobs, they have no income, no resources, no prospects. The cupboard is bare, the pay check is gone and the food pantry just closed down. What now?
When life is upside down
What do you say when you pray and believe and trust God and try to live a decent life, but still you are lying in a hospital bed, sick and frightened and in pain and the doctor tells you he is sorry but there's nothing they can do for you? What would you say when your husband informs you he is just plain tired of being married to you and that he found real love for first time in his life – with someone else? Or you had a miscarriage, a baby you have been trying to have for the past 10 years? Or you apply for jobs but are never called in for interviews? Or you've been working for long and very hard, but never get a promotion? What will you say when life seems to be upside down?
Sing a joyful song
A lot of people may literally say in quietness “to hell with it” and this will even lead them to turn their back to God or to lose hope for the future. But Habakkuk says this: “Even though the crops have failed and there is no livestock in my barn, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Saviour”. Whatever life brought to Habakkuk, he was joyful. He sung a joyful song. Not necessarily because he doesn't care about life or that he's mentally disturbed, but because he learnt to sing his joy in a minor key. Musicians will know how challenging is it to sing joyfully in a minor key.
Life changes to challenge our situation. Habakkuk doesn't sing because he is happy with the situation, but because he is rejoicing in the Lord. Things can be as they are yet we are joyful in God, our Saviour.
Test of faith
In life, we rejoice when things are well with us and on our sides. The real test of our faith is how we meet loss. Most of us are challenged by the outbreak of the coronavirus: Business people have lost income; those in the transport industry have lost income; bars and shebeens are closed; internet sellers are restricted; the situation is no longer the same. Employers have nothing to pay their employees, yet they are being told not to retrench them; employers must look for a way how to handle their employees.
Churches are closed, no more income either to pay for the essential services such as water, electricity, municipal bills as well as bank charges.
The question might arise now: Is there anything left to be joyful about?
The answer is yes. We are not to rejoice because we are waiting, or comfortable and happy, or in love with a wonderful guy. All these things plus many others I didn't mention here can disappear in a blink of an eye. We are to rejoice because we know the Lord, because in Jesus Christ we are adopted by the Creator of the whole universe.
Therefore, one can be joyful even if his crops (or efforts in life) have failed and your kraal (or bank account) is empty.
I don't recommend resignation when things are not in your favour. Resignation is when you give up hope. You accept the inevitable, because there's nothing else you can do about it. You simply resign, the way a gambler presses the 'payout' button when he sees that the machine is not on his favour and he is about to lose his money.
Biblical faith is not resignation. Faith is different. Faith sings. Faith even leaps. It climbs like a deer, as per Habakkuk 3:19. Apostle Paul is telling us that in Christ we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).
Live by faith
In whatever situation, we are to live by faith. Dr Paul Harrison defined living by faith as: “Nothing is too high to be attained, too good to be hoped for, too hard to be endured or too precious to be given away”. Trusting in God is great, but it's not magic. It does not automatically make all our problems go away or remove our very natural reactions to them. You can be faithful and still be fearful too. Yet we are living by faith and have hope for the future.
We must not give up our hopes, neither resign our faith. Things will change as time goes by.
• Reverend Shivute David Aipinge presides over the Okando Lutheran Parish in the Omusati Region.