O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law is paralyzed,and
justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
so justice goes forth perverted. – Habakkuk 1:1-4
Habakkuk came to that point that we all seem to come to at one time or another – the time when we can’t help but look to the heavens and yell “why?” The justice that our hearts seem hard-wired to crave doesn’t exist. Terrible tragedy befalls people for seemingly no reason. All the while, we can’t fathom how an all-powerful and good God can stand by and do nothing.
Yesterday, my pastor preached a great sermon on the opening verses of Daniel about God’s sovereign hand being very much present even when the bottom seems to fall out of life. He read that opening passage from Habakkuk, which has it at the forefront of my mind today as I’ve waded through several instances of heart-wrenching news. A friend from church broke both elbows in a horrible accident Saturday afternoon and is faced with months of rehab. Denny Burk blogged last Friday about the horrible atrocities of African warlord Joseph Kony, who makes Mahmoud Ahmadinejad look like a compassionate leader. Then, this morning, I read an absolutely heartbreaking article on MSNBC.com about late-term abortion. I’m staunchly anti-abortion, and I view it as the defining social injustice of our generation – but let me say that any conservative pro-lifer who heartlessly demonizes every woman who has an abortion needs to read this article (However, I wish greatly that I hadn’t read the article while my wife is in the final week of her pregnancy. This article was hard enough to read as it is, and given my current frame of mind it’s been absolutely crippling to my emotions this morning. If you’re in a similar situation, consider this fair warning…). The decisions faced by the couples in this article are absolutely unfathomable to me. I still wouldn’t condone partial-birth abortion as the answer, but the situations themselves have no good answer and left me feeling very much like Habakkuk.
Yet notice that I said earlier that Habakkuk is not only devastating but encouraging. One reason for that is that it demonstrates that not even the great prophets of old were immune to the pain that so often permeates our existence. We tend to view Biblical figures as unassailable ivory towers of faith, but Habakkuk was a man at the end of his rope. Watching an author of Scripture cry out to God in desperation gives hope that the same God who heard Habakkuk hears me as well. The greater reason for hope, though, is how God answers Habakkuk. What he reveals is that he is very much aware of the state of his creation, and that he is not asleep at the wheel. He is preparing to come in judgment of his people (which eventually prompts more questions from Habakkuk), but he patiently waits in his great mercy. He tells Habakkuk that he will accomplish his perfect plan, and his wisdom is present in all his decrees, even when we cannot understand why. The end result for Habakkuk? Much like Job, he doesn’t get exactly the answers he wants, but he comes out the other side with a much deeper trust in the God who does all things well. He closes with these words…
Though the fig tree should not blossom,I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t understand a lot of what’s happening now. I’m prone to worry, anxiety, and bewilderment. But I know the God who is over it all, and that is enough. I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places. – Habakkuk 3:17-19