There are times and situations in our lives as Christians where the ways of God seem so at odds with His Word and His Character. Try as we might, we simply are at a loss to understand how to reconcile what we see God doing or allowing with His Word or His Character.
God has often called His people to live faithfully during situations and circumstances where He seems distant, absent, or even unconcerned about what is going on around us, to us, and at times inside us.
How are we to respond when all around us are troubles and difficulties – and God seems distant or even absent? The best answer to this question is found in the short but powerful prophecy of an Old Testament preacher by the name of Habakkuk.
His prophecy articulates the question, “Why do God’s actions at times seem contrary to His nature?”
What is the godly man to do when evil triumphs and God seems absent in his life and circumstances?
He is to live by faith! Habakkuk’s book contains the secret to developing an unshakable faith for bad times.
The first section of Habakkuk consists of two complaints by the prophet and God’s first answer.
At the heart of his complaint was a frustration with God’s seeming toleration of the wicked and violent ways of His people. “How long will You tolerate? Why do You continue to show me the triumph of evil rather than Your gracious intervention?”
God graciously responded to Habakkuk’s question. But His answer left Habakkuk with more questions than answers!
Then Habakkuk carefully raises another concern. “Now that I know what You are planning to do and when You are planning to do it, I have a bigger question…
“How can You act in ways that seem so contrary to Your nature and Your Word? I am very confused!”
So what do we do when God’s answers leave us confused? We go back to the basics – we go back to what we know is true about Him.
In spite of everything going on around him and the questions he has raised, Habakkuk is absolutely convinced that no matter what evidence to the contrary, God is righteous! Like a rock, His purposes for and promises to His people are unchanging and dependable.
With this in mind, Habakkuk reaches two important conclusions:
- We will not die! God will not abandon us nor forget His righteous plan and promise to us. Come what may around us – even judgment from God’s own hand – we will not be completely cut off (1:12).
- I will wait for God and ask Him to adjust my perspective (2:1). Like a watchman climbing up his watchtower waiting to receive the news of the hour, Habakkuk will patiently and expectantly wait for God to answer and explain His works.
We live in days very similar to those of Habakkuk. The Church of God at large has fallen into a very sad state – we are in desperate need of revival!
We have exchanged the truth of God for entertainment. We have contented ourselves with casual obedience. We live in spiritual lethargy and personal comfort. And God forbid that anyone should interrupt that!
We are in desperate need for God to bring about a deep level of commitment and obedience to Him. We can be on the verge of something great for God, but then we settle back, not wanting to get stirred up out of our comfort zone.
What will it take for God to wake us up? I asked that question myself several years ago, expecting God to answer it for the people at my ministry. But He chose to answer it personally – in my own life and in my own family.
I received something from God that left me very much like Habakkuk – shocked, shaken, and confused!
I got that answer one Monday in 2007 as Beth and I stood in a darkened room looking at a wall full of x-rays hearing the radiologist prepare us for some heavy news.
That news was confirmed on a Wednesday just before the evening service – Beth had a serious case of cancer that spread to her lymph system.
I asked Habakkuk’s questions – “Lord, how can you be righteous and do this?”
I went to my prayer tower to wait for God’s answer. And instead of getting the answer I demanded, I got God! And what He had to say to me was painfully necessary.
I became very confident that God only uses broken things.
All of my education and all of my skill at interpreting the Scriptures were absolutely worthless and useless in this battle. Cancer cells are not impressed by how much Greek and Hebrew I know.
Education makes us hirable – but it doesn’t make us usable! Brokenness makes us usable. And God had to take me and break me more fully for His use!
I had to pray, praise, and participate even more fully in God’s Word and in His work. And this hard trail created in us both a deeper desire and a greater confidence in God to do so.
So often we charge God foolishly, and then when God’s answer does not conform to our thinking, we judge God! Not Habakkuk – the man who lives by faith will constantly and faithfully wait for God to set all things right, including his own personal thinking about the matter!
There are some important reminders for us as we endure times like that:
- Righteousness is not optional for us no matter what the circumstances around us may be or how confusing God’s actions (or lack of action) may be to us at the moment. We are called to obey even when we don’t understand.
- All of history is under God’s control. We must view history from God’s perspective and not our own. Consistently, God’s actions will eventually reveal the truth that righteousness exalts a nation (or an individual) and sin is a reproach to a people (Proverbs 14:34).
- Rest patiently on God’s character. He is the Holy One. He is the Rock. There is enough purity and stability in Him to fulfill all we need in times of crisis.
Only that kind of faith can be unshakable in bad times.