“Though 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 Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,He enables me to tread on the heights.”Habakkuk 3:17-19
I t doesn’t take much observation to notice that the world can be a dark, bleak place to live. There are many times when it seems like Murphy’s Law of “what can go wrong, will go wrong” is the governing law of the universe. However, the biblical notion of joy offers a different outlook on life. Paul’s declaration in Philippians 4 that he can rejoice in all things and be content in all circumstances seems to be the standard of joy that Christians should live up to, but I had never actually seen anyone live this idealistic goal out until I saw one of the heroes of my life, Edwin Shafer, do it through one of the toughest times of his life.
Edwin Shafer is a friend of my family’s, and I had the privilege of doing some volunteer work for him one summer, which was the first time I got to know him a little bit more personally. With abundant humor, a bit of a twinkle in his eye, and a supply of compliments that he gave out readily to anyone, he always struck me as a cheerful person, but I soon began to realize that this went much further than simple cheerfulness. As I got to know him better, I learned that he was dealing with many things behind the scenes like unfairness at his job, betrayals from friends, and some conflict in his family relationships. I could tell that these things bothered him, but his joy seemed untouched. The more difficult and frustrating his circumstances became, the more generous and encouraging he seemed to be. He always seems invincible to me, and because of that I’ve always looked up to him.
The moment that I realized his joy was truly untouchable was after I heard that his wife had eventually lost her long battle to cancer and passed away. He mourned her loss deeply and took a rest from work to grieve, but in the whole process, he never ceased to show kindness and generosity to my family. There always seemed to be something in his nature that was above and beyond this pain that he was experiencing, as if he knew something that nobody else did. This reminded me of what Habakkuk’s prayer says in Habakkuk 3:17-19, that even when nothing is going right and there seems to be little good in our world, we have reason to rejoice, because the Lord is sovereign, and He is our strength. Because he has this attitude, Edwin Shafer is one of the best role models that I have to look up to, and I strive to have the same invincible joy that he has.