These small group studies of Habakkuk contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, teaching points, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Habakkuk 3:16-19 Inductive Bible Study – Joy In Trials

Outline

I. Habakkuk decides to wait patiently (16)
II. Trials will come (17)
III. We should have joy in the face of trials (18)
IV. The Lord gives strength to face trials (19)

I. Habakkuk decides to wait patiently (16)

Discussion Questions

How did Habakkuk feel about all of the things he had heard?
But what did he decide to do?
What lessons can we learn from his decision to wait patiently in the face of such terrible trials?
What can we learn from Habakkuk about the relationship between emotions and action?

Cross-References

Psalm 56:3 – When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

Teaching Points

1. Habakkuk has heard some very frightening news from the Lord. His country and people are going to face terrible trials. Verse 16 shows us a glimpse of his emotions. He says that his “heart pounded” and his “lips quivered” and “decay crept into” his bones and his “legs trembled.” The things he heard were scary. Lots of pain and judgment were on the way. Things would get much worse before they got better. It is only natural to feel overwhelmed and even frightened.

However, Psalm 56:3 says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

Having emotions, even fear, is a normal reaction. But then what will you do with those emotions? Will you allow the emotions to overcome you? Will you be swept away by them?

2. Habakkuk made a decision to wait patiently for what God was going to do. In Habakkuk, we can see an important relationship between emotion and action. He felt one way, distraught. But he took those emotions to God and he decided on a different action. The way forward was not going to be filled with worry and sleepless nights and ulcers. Habakkuk simply rests in and trusts in God. Rather than fret, he would calmly and patiently wait for whatever God had in store.

Application: We should not fret or worry about things we cannot control. All of us face many things which could cause worry and fear if we allow them to overwhelm us. When those emotions first surface in your mind, how will you deal with them? From Habakkuk we learn that we should take them to God and then patiently wait for Him. Allow God to be God. Allow God to carry out His plans and deal with all of the things that are too big and difficult for us. Do not become like Abraham and impatiently thrust yourself into things and try to solve them on your own (like he did with Hagar). Instead make up your mind not to worry about those things which you can’t control.

II. Trials will come (17)

Discussion Questions

What kind of trials does Habakkuk describe here?
How serious are these trials for an agrarian society?
What may happen to a farmer who loses all his crops and animals?
How would such a person normally react?
What kind similar trials might we face today?
How might these trials be described for a city dweller in the twenty first century?
Can you share a recent trial you have experienced?

Cross-References

1 Peter 4:12-13 – Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

James 1:12 – Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Romans 8:18 – For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Teaching Points

1. Habakkuk describes catastrophic trials –

Habakkuk lists out some of the worst trials that people faced in his days. We don’t know Habakkuk’s occupation. Perhaps he was a farmer. But even if he wasn’t, he was writing in terms that all of the farmers around him could relate to. Most people lived off of the land, either by growing crops, or raising livestock. In this verse fig trees, grapes, and olives are mentioned.

One interesting thing about all of these specific fruits mentioned, is that they take 3 to 5 years to bear fruit. They require a long term time commitment. The farmer puts in a lot of work preparing the soil, planting the crops and making sure they get the water and nutrition they need. He expects to see a good return on his investment. He not only expects it, but he needs it. These fruit would be sold to provide his livelihood. He and his family are counting on it.

So after years, the day to harvest comes. Naturally the farmer walks through his fields to examine the trees and the vines. But he doesn’t see what he expects. Even after waiting three or more years there is nothing. His trees are not producing fruit. The figs are not even blossoming! It cannot be explained. Through reasons he cannot see or understand, they are completely barren. All of his work is for nothing. And what is more, even his fields of planted vegetables produce no food. None. It is not just an especially bad crop. It is no crop whatsoever.

After this, however, the trials only get worse. You can imagine Habakkuk starting to panic as he walks through his fields. The magnitude of the disaster in front of him is starting to dawn on him. How will his family have enough food for the coming year? How can he repay the debt he owes? Well, at least he has a lot of sheep, right? If worse comes to worse, he can always sell his sheep to make ends meet.

So he keeps walking to his sheep pens. Only when he gets there, he finds there are no sheep. They have all disappeared into thin air. So he rushes to the cattle stalls. All gone!

The trial that Habakkuk describes here is sudden; it happens with no warning. It is severe. It is a financial disaster. And it is not a normal level of trial that farmers would face. The causes are not seen. There are no answers to the question “why?” or “how?” or “why me?” Habakkuk basically describes the worst nightmare of a farmer.

2. What trials do we face today?

Illustration: When I grew up my family had a garden. It was not an easy place to grow things. The good news is that in Texas where I lived there were not many rocks in the soil. In fact, there was only one. But the bad news is that it was very large and covered the whole state. So dirt had to be hauled in just to make a garden. We also lived in the country where there were many deer who would eat the crops. And then an electric fence had to be built to keep the deer out.

The hardest part was digging the holes for the posts in solid stone. Thankfully, my brothers were older than me and got to do this. Finally the garden was ready and everything was planted. We planted a few watermelon plants and I loved watermelon. So I excitedly watched as they grew. Two watermelons started growing and I went out everyday to see their progress. But after a while they stopped growing. Finally they withered up and died. I was really disappointed.

So I can feel a tiny sliver of the emotion that Habakkuk is talking about here. But obviously this was not a big trial. We could still buy any food we needed from the supermarket.

So what might Habakkuk say to convey this idea if he lived in our modern day world? He might say something like this:

Though my salary never arrives,
and I am fired suddenly from my job,
though my bank account is emptied through a scam
and my clients refuse to pay me,
though my refrigerator is empty
and there is no food on the table…

He describes a catastrophic trial. It is sudden. It is severe.

3. Many brothers and sisters are facing trials which you may not see –

I believe that many of you are facing trials. Some of you are facing health issues. Some of you have chronic pain. Others have frequent sicknesses.

One brother recently described to me his health issues. In his own words he says, “When I get around pesticides, my thinking slows down, my balance is impaired, I can get palpitations, and I have bouts of sudden, extreme fatigue.” He also has to avoid many places and often he needs to wear a charcoal mask.

Another brother has a chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. There are many foods he can’t eat, which affect his everyday life. Here are just a few he can’t eat: bread, spicy food, high fiber food, corn, beans. No pizza. No burgers. No hot dogs. It causes him to lose weight. He needs to make many hospital visits. And it zaps his energy and causes extreme fatigue.

If you think about it, trials of friends and relatives, brothers and sisters in Christ will surely come to mind. Some trials you know about, but there are many more which you don’t.

Some of these trials are short term, but others are long term. There are people with health challenges and family issues. Singles want to get married. Couples want to have children. The list goes on and on.

These are not easy things. Perhaps you yourself are facing extreme trials. I cannot possibly understand the difficulty of what you are facing, the nights when you have cried yourself to sleep when the trials of this world become too much to bear. I haven’t faced these things. I can’t feel what you are feeling.

But I do know this.

4. God is good all the time (even when we face trials) –

God’s truth is still true even when it is hard to understand. He is still on His throne. He is still good. He does love you and He does have a plan for you. The power of His Word speaks to our own life situations regardless of the messenger.

Psalm 84:11 “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

James 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

Both of these verses tell us that God has our best at heart. Do you believe that?

It is easy for us to focus on the trials that come to us and forget the many blessings. When we do that doubts about God’s goodness may slowly creep in.

Recently, I was teaching my children that they should say “thank you” for the good things people do for them instead of taking those things for granted. It is a simple lesson, but the truth is we all sometimes take the Lord for granted. When He gives us good gifts we may forget to say “thank you.” And when we face trials, we may complain instead of seeing the good in them.

5. Trials have a purpose –

The truth is even trials are for our good. If you know the Scripture, you already know that trials have a purpose. And yet in Scripture we are constantly reminded “do not forget.” So I want to remind you to not forget that trials do have a purpose.

James 1:3 says, “the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

1 Peter 5:10 tells us that “after you have suffered for a little while, {He} will restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.”

God uses trials to build our character. In the book of Habakkuk we see that the Israelites are going to face a serious trial of defeat and exile. For hundreds of years they will be forced subjects of a foreign kingdom far from home. And yet God used this to turn their hearts back to Him. God wants to use trials to strengthen you and your faith. The Israelites faced a trial of discipline because of their sin.

Sometimes a trial could come because of our own poor choices or even be discipline from the Lord. In these cases we need to learn the hard lessons and change our behavior. But they very often are not because of our sin. The disciples faced this own question about the man born blind. Who sinned? He or his parents? Jesus said his blindness was not a cause of anyone’s sin.

God sends you trials because He loves you. This is a bold statement and perhaps hard to accept, but it is nonetheless true. He wants to mold and shape you into the best version of yourself you can possibly be. He cares more about your long term good and character than your short term comfort. We are often about the here and now, creatures of the present, so this is difficult for us. But to God a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day. If a trial today can improve your character for a thousand years, then it is worth it. This is the purpose of trials.

At the same time, we should remember that God does not send us into these trials callously. He does not send you in alone.

6. We don’t face trials alone –

Isaiah 41:13 says, “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.”

And of course we remember Psalm 23 “Though I will walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

God is with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. But that is not the only way He helps us. He also wants us to help and encourage and lift up each other.

Galatians 6:2 – Bear one another’s burdens.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

If you are a believer in Jesus, you are part of the family of Christ. And a family should be there for each other.

Application: Think for a moment about the people you know. Who is facing a difficult trial? Who needs to be encouraged? What can you do about it?

The first step is to get to know the brothers and sisters. Build up relationships where you can share the real struggles you are facing. Listen to each other. Comfort each other. Pray for each other. Encourage each other. Sometimes physical help is needed. Don’t say like the apathetic Christians in James “Go, I wish you well, keep warm and well fed!”

And may I suggest that you don’t even say, “If there is anything I can do for you, let me know.” That is closer, but many people are too shy to tell you what they need help with. Instead observe their situation and offer to help them in a very specific way that you believe will minister to them.

Application 2: Seek to encourage and lift up the brothers and sisters around you who are struggling. Do this by serving them, praying for them, and listening to them.

III. We should have joy in the face of trials (18)

Discussion Questions

How does Habakkuk respond to the severe trials?
How would most people respond to such serious trials?
What lessons can we learn from him?
Can you describe any trials where you were able to have joy in the middle of it?
What helped give you joy?
What suggestions would you give to people in the middle of trials to help them have the joy of the Lord even when suffering?

Cross-References

James 1:2-4 – Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

1 Peter 1:6 – In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.

James 5:10-11 – As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Teaching Points

1. Joy does not depend on circumstances –

In verse 17 we see Habakkuk describe a catastrophe. There seems to be no silver lining. And yet in verse 17 we see that Habakkuk is joyful. Has something changed? Have the sheep returned? Are the fig trees finally blooming? No. Nothing has changed. The circumstances are still bad.

Therefore we learn that true joy does not depend on circumstances. It is possible to be joyful in any situation, no matter how dire it is. And it is not only possible, but it is commanded.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 says to “Rejoice always.” This is not a suggestion. It is a command. We are commanded to rejoice always. By His grace we can.

In Acts 16 Paul and Silas were thrown in to prison. Prisons in those days were dirty and smelly. Their feet were put in stocks. Circumstances were not good. It was a serious trial for them. They were not in prison because of their own sin. They had been faithfully serving God and sharing the good news. And yet God allowed them to be wrongfully taken and thrown in prison. Some people would become bitter and angry and question God, “God, have you abandoned me? I was serving you! How can you let this happen?”

You know the story. Paul and Silas were singing hymns to the Lord in prison. Eventually the jailer and his family were saved. Although they didn’t know what it was at the time, God had a clear purpose in allowing this trial to happen. The lesson from Paul and Silas is simple, no matter how bad things get around us, we decide how to respond.

2. Joy is a decision –

Note what Habakkuk says in verse 18, “I WILL rejoice.” He makes a decision. He decides in his heart and before the Lord that no matter how difficult things become, he will respond with a good attitude and be joyful. True joy is not an artificial smile that we paste on to cover over our true feelings.

Illustration: When I went through training for the teaching job I have, my school told all the teachers to “check our problems at the door.” In the classroom we are supposed to smile and pretend to be happy no matter how we feel. So in the office teachers might be complaining or upset, but in the classroom they smile. But real joy is not like this, merely a fake exterior we put up to show others.

Neither does joy mean there is no room for sadness. We are rather commanded to “weep with those who weep.” There is a time and a place for grieving. Was Habakkuk happy about all of the disasters the Babylonians would wreak on his people and nation? Did he hear about this and say “Woo hoo!” No. Happiness and joy are different.

Happiness is primarily a feeling that we have which is triggered by exterior things such as the people around us. It is not natural that we would be happy when for example someone around us dies. And yet, even in those situations, we can make a decision that we will not complain. We will not become bitter and angry toward God. We will not become grumpy and upset with the people around us.

Joy is a decision that from our heart we will keep a good attitude before the Lord and men. We will remain thankful and optimistic. We will remember God’s goodness and place our faith in the fact that the trial we face has a purpose.

Application: Perhaps you have not responded well to the trials in your life. Perhaps you have complained. Perhaps you have become short tempered and easily irritated. Perhaps you have even allowed anger toward the Lord to build up in your hearts. This book of Habbakuk is for you. We have seen Habakkuk struggle with these things. We have seen him question God. But at the end of it all, he decided to rejoice no matter what. Are you willing, right now, to do the same? Are you willing to make a decision to respond to that trial with joy?

3. Joy comes from the Lord –

How is this type of joy possible? Yes, it is a decision. It is a willingness to say “I will” even when it is difficult. But it is also more than this. If someone is far from the Lord, he will not able to demonstrate joy no matter how many times he repeats to himself “I will be joyful. I will be joyful!” Habakkuk says, “ I will rejoice in the Lord.” and “I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” He is joyful because of his relationship with God. He is joyful because he knows who God is. He is joyful because he has experienced personal salvation from the Lord, which far outweighs all of his trials.

We can choose to be joyful because even in the midst of suffering, God is present with us. In Galatians 5, joy is listed as one fruit of the Spirit. The closer you get to God the easier and more natural it will be to make that choice to be joyful. And if you are far from the Lord no matter how hard you strive in your power to have that kind of joy, you will only fail again and again.

We see in verse 18 that Habakkuk makes a very important commitment before the Lord. His commitment is that in the midst of any trials, he will turn to God and not away from Him.

This is the question before you now. Where will you turn when you face trials? Will you turn inward, toward your own understanding or depending on your own strength? Will you turn to some comfort or pleasure in the world to get your mind off of things? Will you turn away from your brothers and sisters in Christ and isolate yourself? Or will you perhaps instead turn only to people with your problems, expecting that they can strengthen and support you? Or will your turn to the Lord? He alone can sustain you and bring you through.

Application: When you face trials, turn TO the Lord, not AWAY from Him!

IV. The Lord gives strength to face trials (19)

Discussion Questions

How does Habakkuk describe the Lord here?
What is the relationship between this verse and the trails Habakkuk faced?
How does the Lord help Habakkuk through the trials?
What does it mean to have feet like a deer? What are special about a deer’s feet?
What does it mean that “He enables me to go on the heights?”

Cross-References

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

1 Peter 5:10 – And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Teaching Points

1. He gives us strength –

In verse 19, we can see the result of turning to the Lord. What is the result? In a word, victory. He will give you the strength you need, not to stumble through the trial but to make you an overwhelming conqueror.

Romans 8:36-37 – As it is written: “For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Maybe you need strength to make all those hospital visits. Maybe you need strength to keep serving your family when you are tired and in pain. Maybe you need strength to say a gentle word in response to bitter accusations and persecutions. Maybe you need strength to persevere and not give up. God knows! He knows your weaknesses. He knows exactly what you need to be victorious. He was with David when he faced Goliath. He was with Noah when he built the ark in the face of mockers. He was with Stephen when he was stoned. He will be will you too.

2. He helps us stand firm in rocky times –

Then Habakkuk says “he makes my feet like the deer’s.” or some translations say “like hind’s feet.” What is this animal? Whatever it is, you probably haven’t seen them running around your town. So we need a little bit of background about Israel to fully understand what Habakkuk is saying here.

Israel’s topography is very rugged. There is a large wilderness which is quite rocky. The land goes from 430 meters below sea level to 1300 meters above sea level in a short distance. And in these rocky cliffs lives an amazing creature which called an ibex.

These animals are extremely sure footed. I watched a documentary about them with my kids and saw that they can not only climb up almost sheer rock faces, but they can leap from stone to stone and find grip on the smallest of foot holes. This was the geography that Habakkuk was familiar with and this was the type of animal that lived and still lives there. It is very likely the kind of animal he was referring to, especially considering the next line in verse 19 which says, “he makes me tread on my high places.”

These high cliffs were dangerous. But Habakkuk acknowledged that God could make him walk sure footed on the most dangerous of paths just like the ibex. This is a beautiful picture.

The road you are treading may be equally dangerous and rocky. All you can see is pitfalls all around you. At any moment you may slip and fall. God gives you strength. God gives you a solid footing and can keep you falling.

And what can help keep you from falling when you face these trials? Here in this verse is actually a clue of one of our most important ways we can keep firm footing.

Psalm 18:33. “He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.”

Application: Memorizing Scripture reminds us of the truth in times of doubting.

Notice that it is almost exactly the same. Is it a coincidence? No. The imagery is the same. Habakkuk has clearly read the Psalms. And he is quoting this Scripture. He turns to the truth of God’s Word. When the trials of life worry him, he is able to stand on solid ground. He is able to make this promise to God. He is able to recognize and appreciate God’s presence with him, because he has memorized Scripture and turns to it in moments of confusion and doubt.

Do you have a Bible memorization plan? Are you hiding God’s Word in your heart? God’s Word is an amazing thing. Those verses you have memorized will pop in to your mind just when you most need them. The Holy Spirit will use the truth of what you have already learned to give you strength. His Word is the solid ground you can stand on and not sink when the trials come.

Conclusion:

Habakkuk made a promise that he would rejoice no matter what his circumstances were. He would praise God and be thankful to God even when it wasn’t easy.

Will you make this commitment before the Lord today? Joy in the face of trials is a decision. If by God’s grace, you can make that decision today then the first battle is won. Make no mistake. The fight is not over. There may still be times when you say “Why Lord?” like Habakkuk. But by God’s grace if today we can say “I will rejoice” then you can win today. If you win today, tomorrow will be a little easier.

E-Book: If this study is helpful for you, see our complete Study Habakkuk Bible study guide available for download.

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