I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
Habakkuk writes at a time when Israel is going from Assyrian to Babylonian rule. Not exactly a move for the better. He’s questioning God, wondering how long evil will prevail. Wondering why God tolerates the violence and terrible things happening all around.
God assures him the evil doers will be judged. They will come to ruin. And that the Lord remains on the throne.
Habakkuk accepts the answer and ends the short book with faith and trust in God. No matter how bad things may be, he will rejoice in God, for the Lord is his strength.
From prison Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
It can be easy to dismiss the words of Habakkuk or Paul when we are going through trials- a cancer diagnosis, unemployment, the loss of our most dear loved one. They seem like empty words on a page.
But the writers of these words were real flesh and blood people who lived during very difficult times and experienced great hardship. In the depths of their being, they knew God and they knew he could be trusted in all things.
And though they believed, they weren’t afraid to confront God. Habakkuk did not shy away from questioning God. You don’t have to spend much time in the Psalms either to see God being questioned. Look at Abraham, Moses and Job. They all questioned God. But they never lost their faith. God patiently heard their complaint and proved himself to be trustworthy.
So don’t be afraid to take issue with or challenge God. It has a long track record in the scriptures.
The, remember Peter’s words when Jesus asked him if he wanted to leave him too, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
The people who inhabit scripture were not super saints. They all had their faults and they all made mistakes – some more than others. But they all learned through the hardships of life that God was the only one who could safely see them to the other side. Only one holds eternal life. Suffering, pain and evil will not last forever. They will all pass away one day. The one thing that will not is God and his kingdom and that is where we find our hope and our strength.
Let us pray.
Lord, you see our pain and our struggles. You don’t dismiss our questions and challenges but you hear us. You hear our laments and our cries. Thank you that you will see us through whatever we are going through. Help us, like the prophet, say, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
How has God answered your questions, your challenges, your doubts?
How has God seen you through trials in the past?
Have you seen how challenges and struggling can ultimately bring you nearer to God?