Comforting anyone who’s lost a loved one is difficult, but the challenge is particularly hard for those who work with children whose parents have died. In such situations, one might think that it’s best to help children forget the trauma they’ve endured. But therapists have discovered that the opposite is actually true—remembrance helps children cope with their loss. Remembering all the good memories they shared with their parents helps them see their past with joy and their future with hope.

Likewise, today’s passage from Habakkuk seems like a strange context to find joy. The prophet says he will rejoice in the Lord, but the preceding verses seem anything but joyful. He describes fear, the threat of a foreign invasion, and a season of utter barrenness (Habakkuk 3:16-17). How can Habakkuk say he will rejoice in the midst of such a hopeless situation?

The key is found in verse 2 of the chapter, where he reflects, “I have heard all about you, Lord. I am filled with awe by your amazing works. In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. And in your anger, remember your mercy.” The prophet’s joy and hope weren’t found in his present circumstances, which were dire indeed. Instead, he found joy and encouragement by remembering and recounting all of the amazing works God had done in the past and knowing that He could do them again.

Remembering the past isn’t an exercise in sentimentality where we wistfully recall better days long gone by. No, it’s when we remember what God did in the past that we gain the strength to face our present trials with courage and even joy. We can then confess, “I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (Habakkuk 3:18).

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Acts 19:21-41