By Summer Stevens
As we usher in another year and the world continues to spiral even farther into an orbit of suspicion, fear, and strife, I find myself echoing Habakkuk’s cry. “How long, O Lord…?” How long will You allow this to continue? How long will fear dominate the day? How long will anger be the most common denominator? How long will all of these restrictions last? Every trip to the grocery store leaves me with an odd feeling in the pit of my stomach that something has gone very, very wrong with the world.
Habakkuk didn’t like the state of his world, either. Violence was the rule; the good guys always lost, and God seemed to sit idly by and “hold his tongue” (1:13). If you are feeling weary, wondering where God is, and what you are supposed to do, let me encourage you with these five words from the Book of Habakkuk.
Watch. “Look among the nations and watch—be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you” (1:5). This is a fascinating passage. Habakkuk is lamenting the evil in the world, and God responds by saying, just you wait! I’m getting a people ready who are “terrible and dreadful” and “more fierce than evening wolves” (1:7-8). I don’t know about you, but if I cried out to God about the evil in the world, I would be mighty surprised if He responded, “Summer, wait until you see the train wreck of terror and destruction I’m preparing to take care of all the evil you’re worried about.” We don’t often pray for, or even expect, these kinds of answers from God, but the main point here is, God is at work. He is not silent. He has not forgotten. Even amid incomprehensible chaos, God has not lost control. He is not causing the evil, but it isn’t a surprise to Him, and He can use it for His purposes. So, dear friends, watch. Watch for God’s movement, even in unlikely places.
Faith. In God’s second response to Habakkuk, He urges patience for the hearer, to wait for the vision. Then God contrasts the two types of hearers: “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith” (2:4). We are called to be faithful in times of trial; it demonstrates our belief in God’s sovereignty and power. As Christians, we are called to be the just, the ones who live according to his faith. We are to wear the lens of faith every day as it colors every conversation, every thought, and every action. This is a choice and a challenging one! We can believe that Jesus has saved us and yet not live daily “by faith.” Instead, there are many Christians today who are living by fear or by resentment. Ultimately, if we are not living by faith, we are living by another measure. God calls that pride.
Though. Chapter 3 concludes with a beautiful picture and affirmation of Habakkuk’s faith. He has questioned God honestly and humbly, and God responded. Three times Habakkuk describes scarcity, beginning with the word though:
“though the fig tree may not blossom…though the labor of the olive tree may fail…though the flock may be cut off from the fold…”(v 17). I appreciate these verses because our faith is not on the basis of all going well. In fact, our faith is tested when life isn’t going well, when everything we try seems to fail and there simply is nothing else left but God, and we cling to Him because we know Him and love Him. Some things are legitimately really hard now. David said it best in Psalm 23, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” The world is uncertain. But that’s okay. When comforts and even needs are stripped away, the true source of our faith is revealed.
Yet. Verse 18 is when hope cracks through the despair, when the sun shines after a storm, and when the hero emerges alive and well from the collapsed and burning building. Though we are hungry and desperate and utterly destitute, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.” Yet. Even still. Although. Nevertheless. Even when all seems lost and I’m a fool for believing. Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. Brothers and sisters, how I long for that kind of heart, don’t you? I don’t know what your “thoughs” are, but if you are weary and looking for relief, I can guarantee I know what your “yet” is. Because it is the “yet” of all believers. Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. The verse continues, “I will joy in the God of my salvation.” It is only, only in God that we can withstand the heartaches of our present circumstances, and through rejoicing, through worship, we can endure.
Strength. I love that the passage doesn’t end there. Yes, there are troubles, and yes, we can have joy despite our circumstances, but God doesn’t stop there. “The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills” (v. 19). When we choose to rejoice in the Lord, He will give us the strength to do things that we didn’t have the desire or ability to do. We are not mustering that strength on our own; God Himself is our strength! Picture the feet of a tired and hungry and weary person, trudging along a path…now imagine the gait of a deer, unhindered and free, not even in a field, but on a hill no less! Talk about renewed energy and vigor! God offers that to us, His dear children, when we are weary. If this is you, take some time this month in the Book of Habakkuk, meditating on God’s character, His promises, and His heart for His people.
Summer Stevens is married to Nathanael and they have five children. She has a Master’s in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and enjoys running (but mostly talking) with friends and reading good books to her kids.