I recently reread the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk and was moved by the conversation between God and Habakkuk regarding hard times. I don’t know if I can ever be as trusting as Habakkuk, but he certainly lays out a good example. Here is a brief outline of the lessons I think I can learn from Habakkuk’s experience.
Hab. 1: 2-3 In the very opening lines of the book, Habakkuk lays out his complaint with the cry that we have all probably uttered, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?” As long as humans and God have been interacting, humans have cried out in despair that God appears to not be listening. I have uttered this lament myself. I think this is the first lesson that we can learn from Habakkuk—that it is okay, natural, and perhaps part of our relationship with God, to cry out in lament and complaint when we sense God’s absence. Perhaps we should not feel ashamed or that we have lost our faith when we utter such complaints to God. Perhaps such complaint is even a sign of faith, that we expect something more from God. So our first lesson is to lay out our pain before God.
Hab. 1:5 God responds to Habakkuk, “For a work is being done in your days that you would not believe if you were told.” I hear this as God saying to Habakkuk (and to me), “You may not see anything happening, but I am working, just believe.” I guess I don’t find that especially comforting, but I certainly find it to be a consistent message throughout Scripture.
Hab. 2:3 God continues his response reassuring Habakkuk that “there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it.” I sense this as God reassuring Habakkuk again that He is working and that often (frustratingly) our job is to wait. A recent YouVersion app devotional described patience as “the ability to survive the season of ‘not yet.’” That devotional also proclaimed that “What God does while we’re waiting is more important than what we’re waiting for.” Again, this is hard advice, but it certainly seems consistent. It also seems borne out by experience. Our job is to cry out in lament, and then to wait and trust.
Hab. 2:20 Here God pronounces, “the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!” This feels a little bit like, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). Maybe there is a time, after all the lament, and all the complaining, to simply be silent and trust that God is God and I am not.
Hab. 3:17-19 Habakkuk’s book ends with one of the most amazing statements of faith in all of Scripture. I come back to Habakkuk’s example again and again in my own life. Having stated his complaint in his opening verses, having heard God’s promises, having heard God’s call to wait in trust, Habakkuk’s heart seems to be turned. God has worked in Habakkuk for faith. Here is what Habakkuk writes:
“Though the fig tree does not blossom,
And no fruit is on the vines;
Though the produce of the olive fails
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock is cut off from the fold
And there is no herd in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will exult in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer
And makes me tread upon the heights.
Note that the external situation has not improved. Habakkuk is still in the midst of hard times, but Habakkuk himself has changed. He is able to praise God, to rejoice in God, and to find strength in God.
This is how Habakkuk handles the hard times. He cries out unashamedly. He listens as God reassures him that God is working. Habakkuk waits, and when his eyes are all cried out, Habakkuk is still there before the Almighty. And God works. Perhaps not in the external circumstances, but certainly in Habakkuk’s heart.
Oh, Lord, help me to learn from Habakkuk. Work in my heart, O Lord. Help me trust that you are indeed working even when I can’t see it. And, like Habakkuk, tune my heart to praise for you. Thank you, O Faithful God.