We can often find ourselves struggling to ease the tension between what we know to be true about God and the grueling, wearisome circumstances of our everyday life. Sometimes our theology and the arduous realities of our lives don’t mesh neatly together. If our God is sovereign and good, why do we suffer through extended periods of sin, pain, discouragement, violence and/or evil?
In the Old Testament Book of Habakkuk, we find a prophet who is wrestling with that same question. He finds himself surrounded by wickedness, violence, and strife. And this unrighteousness originates and is flourishing among his own people—the people who are supposed to represent Yahweh to the nations. Habakkuk, burdened by the injustice and evil that pervades through Judah, laments before the Lord. “Oh Lord, how long?” and “Why do You look at wrongdoing and remain idle?” Then we almost feel the prophet’s anguish and confusion as he grapples with God’s response to the injustice. God reveals His plan: He will raise up an even more wicked and idolatrous people, the Babylonians, to enact His discipline and judgment on Judah.
Our counselees often experience the same feelings and ask the same questions as Habakkuk. Why does injustice and turmoil seem to go unchecked? Why does God appear distant or silent? Why are the resolutions to my circumstances painful and seemingly unfair? If God is sovereign and good, why is this happening?
When our counselees are crushed by the trials and adversities of life, where can we point them? We can provide crucial guidance and encouragement to their weary souls as we walk them through the pages of Habakkuk.
What Does Habakkuk Teach Us About God?
1) God welcomes our questions and complaints. God invites us to pour out our hearts before Him. We don’t need to deny our pain, confusion, or doubts. On the contrary, we can run to God and lay our grief and concerns at His feet (Habakkuk 1:2-4, 12-17).
2) God listens. Like a father leaning down to better hear His precious child speak, God inclines His ear toward His children (Psalm 31:2, 116:2). He hears His children’s prayers and responds to their cries for help (Habakkuk 1-2).
3) God is a God of action. In Habakkuk 1:5, God commands His servant to look, see, wonder, and be amazed—for God is doing a work in the prophet’s day that would not be believed. God is not idle, and He is not indifferent to evil.
4) God is in control. God emphasizes His sovereignty, as He gives Habakkuk a vision of what is to come. “I am raising up the Chaldeans,” He declares (Habakkuk 1:6). Our God ordains all things (Daniel 4:35), even the things we cannot understand. Far from being outside God’s control, our trials are handpicked by a loving Father to refine us and bring life (James 1:2-4). Our hope is founded in the truth that God is always working out His good purpose in our lives (Romans 8:28-29).
What Wisdom Can We Glean from the Prophet?
1) Habakkuk’s approach: Note the prophet’s posture as he worshipfully pours out his questions before God. While he does not minimize the fearful realities he is experiencing, he doesn’t forget that he is a creature, approaching the Creator. The prophet teaches us how to persistently bring our honest prayers before God (Habakkuk 1:2-3, 12-13).
2) Habakkuk’s starting point: The prophet’s hope is anchored in God’s immutable character. Habakkuk consistently reminds himself of who God is: Holy, righteous, just, eternal, etc. His covenant-keeping God is the Rock that anchors him during the ever-shifting circumstances of life. In a world full of uncertainty, we can place our trust in a faithful God, who is true to His character (Habakkuk 1:12-13).
3) Habakkuk’s decision: Habakkuk chooses to fight for faith. He is a man who finds hope and rest in accepting that the secret things belong to the Lord (Deuteronomy 29:29); and that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than his (Isaiah 55:9). We see Habakkuk exercises faith by:
- Looking to God. Habakkuk actively seeks and petitions God for direction and answers (Habakkuk 1:1-5, 12-17).
- Waiting on God. Like a watchman intently scanning for the enemy, Habakkuk waits with anticipation on God (Habakkuk 2:1).
- Trusting God. When God’s answer isn’t what Habakkuk wants to hear, he chooses to trust the goodness of his promise-keeping God.
- Praising God. By the closing verses of Habakkuk, we find the prophet praising God for who He is, and not because of favorable circumstances. Joy is not instantaneous. Habakkuk fights through the process of lamenting, looking, waiting and trusting. In the end, his joy and strength are found in the Lord (Habakkuk 3:16-19).
Let us not be slow to help our counselees unearth the treasured truths of the gospel woven throughout the book of Habakkuk. God is holy, righteous and just. And although we are tempted, like Habakkuk, to compare ourselves to someone more wicked than ourselves, we are all unrighteous and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). God could have left us lost in our sin; just has He could have left unrighteousness to spread unchecked among Judah. Or, He could have allowed the Babylonians to completely annihilate the weaker nation. Yet in His mercy and care for His children, God interceded. His discipline led to purification and life for God’s covenant people in the Old Testament. Jesus Christ interceded for us. When we repent from our sins and put our faith in the perfect life, sacrificial death, and resurrection of Christ, we too become God’s children. And the sovereign, good, covenant-keeping God becomes our trusted Heavenly Father.
Make no mistake about it, the Christian life is a fight—a fight for faith. I pray that we let the truths found in Habakkuk speak into the dark scenarios of our lives. Let us encourage our counselees to emulate Habakkuk. In the midst of painful and uncertain days, let us find joy and strength in the Lord. Let us be a people who live by faith and not by sight!