Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. - Habakkuk 4:17-18a (NRSV)
Not long ago, I was in a car accident on a busy freeway during rush hour. Apparently, another driver suffered a seizure while driving and crashed into several other cars before he crashed into mine and ended up stopped on the center barricade.
No one was seriously injured, so the other drivers and I stood around for a while on the hot cement of the middle lane of I-5, waiting to be cleared to continue our commute home. In that unfamiliar place, we did the familiar thing that strangers do when waiting for something to happen. We started to complain.
“For goodness sake, it’s always something, isn’t it?”
“What a way to end the day!”
“We’ll be late for dinner now.”
I have some friends who are going through life seasons that are beyond inconvenient and right into tragic. I’m learning from them that complaint doesn’t have to be our default. These friends are teaching me that there is always reason to rejoice in the goodness of God, even when nothing seems to be going their way. Even in the middle of an accident, these friends teach me to notice gratitude for the passerby who passed around a water bottle, the unexpected beauty of the sun when you are stopped on the freeway instead of speeding down it, and the miracle that today, at least, although machinery was crumpled, no human life was lost.
Holy One, help me to rejoice in you even, or especially, when I am tempted to complain. Amen.
Jennifer Brownell is the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Vancouver, Washington, and the author of Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath, her inspiring memoir.