Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to GOD. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on GOD ’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain! Habakkuk 3:17-19 MSG
I first stumbled on this verse back in 2010. It was just a few years after my father died, about 6 months after we had to hastily resign our first ministry position, and the day that my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 incurable breast cancer.
I still remember the already present grief beginning to balloon up to a popping point. The dread, the anticipation that filled every part of my body was suffocating.
I actually still remember the moment. I was sitting in my favorite chair in the living room. Cavin was down for a nap. I read this passage. And then I read Romans 4. Abraham believed against all hope.
And that became my prayer. It became a lifeline. When it was so uncertain, when confusion reigned more than clarity-it was my home I walked into. I thought if Habakkuk could show such faith in the midst of his questions, suffering and loss, so can I. I just need to find Him in the midst of this. He promises that when we seek Him, we will find Him when we seek with all of our hearts. And so I began...
I stumbled through the years as more suffering came, but this prayer remained. Even in my doubt, when the fear drowned out His perfect love, and when I was convinced I was all alone-I held on to fragmented hope.
That season came and went, and the story was written. The chapters were completed and the book closed. Nonetheless, the lessons of those years changed me forever. The goodbyes because of death were no more painful then the goodbyes to myself as I had known her-the goodbyes to stability and safety that I had always had.
Yet, though it all, God was faithful. In fact, He was more than faithful. There was not one moment that He was not with me, even if I may have doubted in the darkness. I look back and I reflect regularly and I remember the goodness of my God. Protection and provision remained mine throughout, and it continues today.
I am convinced, with Paul, that neither death nor life or anything else in all of this fallen world, can separate us from a God who so redemptively and restoratively loves us.
Do I experience fear? Of course. And sometimes even dreadful anticipation. Yet, it does not have a stronghold on me. Fear is a normal human emotion that will rear its ugly head at times. Yet, I believe the key is we must not act or behave out of that fear or have cyclical thoughts derived from the fear. We must acknowledge our fear and surrender to the perfect love that pushes out all fear.
I love the prophet Habakkuk. He is a companion on this journey through the wilderness. He humbly and vulnerably gives voice to the same fear, incredulous questioning, and confusion that we regularly feel when trying to understand the ways of our God.
His story takes place in the seventh century B.C. The summary of it is that Habakkuk has discovered that God plans to use the godless to punish the godly. Babylon would bring punishment upon Israel.
We cannot understand God's purposes, yet He has them. This purpose of God's was just as confusing or seemingly ridiculous as His current purposes today in our own political climate.
Habakkuk's response was cuttingly honest. He complains and he questions. He asks questions like, "Why do you make me look at injustice"? Why don't you listen, why don't you save?" He shouts, "Justice is perverted, conflict abounds, you are tolerating wrong!"
God's response is this, "Look at the nations and watch-and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told". And then proceeds to describe how utterly horrible the Babylonians are. Yet, He is raising them up.
IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE!
Habakkuk responds with, "Why do you tolerate the treacherous?"
He wonders if He will be rebuked. Will God chastise me, discipline me for questioning His sovereignty? Habakkuk is willing to acknowledge his fear, he digs into the pain of confusion, and he wrestles and asks the hard questions. The key is that he is doing this with the Lord, before the Lord, and in surrender to the Lord. God invites us to wrestle, He just invites us to do it with him. Because there will come a point where He speaks, and we begin to hear.
Yet, God is patient. He responds, He doesn't make His way completely clear, but He responds. He reminds him of His promises to His people. Though it linger, wait for it. It will not prove false. He says, live by faith.
The rule of the Babylonians was not a sign of God's approval, it was simply part of His purposes.
We cannot understand all of the purposes of our God, but that does not change His character or His promises. Habakkuk fights and hears from God until he breaks through the questioning and fear, and finds a peace in trusting. He begins to recount the faithful deeds of God, he is reminded of His greatness, the magnitude of His sovereignty. And there he finds a place of renewed trust. A commitment in faith no matter the loss or suffering that might be present or might come.
When uncertainty in life is present, when possible battle is on the horizon, when we just can't understand what God is up to...what can we learn from this honest, strong, vulnerable prophet?
Well, first, we have God's Word to guide us. Read and meditate on His Word, and He will give you wisdom and insight that will ease your questioning. Learn about His character and confidence will fill in the gaps of a lack of understanding. There are a few examples from Habakkuk we can follow:
- Honesty and vulnerability with God.
- Time in prayer and His presence.
- Remember the goodness of our God.
Although, it may come in the form of requests, I think sometimes we spend more time telling God what He should do and how He should do it. Rather we should intently and passionately express how we feel about what He is doing, and then move to find surrender in that. There is nothing wrong with praying for an outcome, if our prayer at the end is always - "not my will, but yours be done".
Relationship and trust with the living God will be built more through vulnerability with and surrender to our Savior, then through a constant list of requests and demands for Him to do what we want.
There is a passage in Psalm 73 where the writer is crying out in his own confusion of what seems to be God’s failure of His people. Then the Psalmist states this, “When I sought to understand this it was oppressive to me, until I went into His sanctuary.” (God's presence). God grants understanding, insight, and wisdom when we seek Him. It may not be in full, because here we know only in part-but He always offers more when we seek Him.
In the end, when fully dependent on our Savior, we have nothing to fear or dread in life, in this nation, or this world. Trust in the sovereignty of our God. He is faithful always. May we be found resting in peace, singing in joy, and firmly confident in our God.