The world of violence and injustice that faces the prophet is all too familiar to people of all generations, locations, and tribes. News of wars, injustice, oppression, and threats bombard us from all sides. Many are petrified with fear as they sit wringing their hands and wondering what will happen as tensions escalate and instability multiplies. It is as if we were living in the days of Habakkuk all over again.
One afternoon in early 2011, my Bible reading was interrupted by the breaking news that a 22-year-old gunman had gone on a rampage in Tucson, Arizona, killing 6 and wounding 13. Among the wounded was U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. I watched and listened in horror as CNN reported the heart-wrenching news. In the hours and days that followed, I couldn’t shake the nagging need to reflect on the fact that, as the Scriptures say, there is indeed nothing new under the sun.
When the news of the Tucson shoot came over the airwaves, I was reminded by the very passage of Scripture I had been reading (Habakkuk 1) that sometimes we face problems that seem to overwhelm us. Sometimes the twists and turns of life perplex us because we just can’t seem to find satisfactory answers to our deepest and most heartfelt questions.
In the midst of this horrible news, I was able to find hope in the Scriptures. Others have faced these problems before, and we can learn from their experiences how to see God in the midst of tragedy.
1) The problems we face (Habakkuk 1:1-4)
Sometimes things are not as they seem. Just as the prophet faced severe hardships in his day, we too are surrounded by the effects of a fallen and sinful world. And from time to time we too wonder if the Lord has forgotten about us. We wonder if He will ever show up and alleviate our pain and deliver us from injustice.
When we see things like the Tucson shooting and are forced to deal with the carnage of such senseless violence, we too wonder, “How long?” We too want to shout, “Listen to me!” and “Do something about this!”
2) Hope in our perplexity (Habakkuk 1:5-6)
One of the ways God has chosen to teach us is through other people. Sometimes he teaches us through their obedience and sometimes he teaches us through their disobedience. But God never wastes a triumph or a tragedy.
Sometimes when we find ourselves in perplexing situations we need to look to the past and see God’s faithfulness. God may not work the same way in the present situation as He did in the past situations of others but He will be faithful now just as he was then.
God is active even when it does not seem like it.
Sometimes we confuse God’s presence with our comfort. This will not always workout the way we want them too but God will always be present with His people through the struggles of life.
The cruel and the violent, the sinner and the saint will all answer to the same God. None are beyond His reach and none can escape His gaze. This is not to say that everything that happens is God’s will, nor is it to say that everyone God uses is righteous. It is to say that God is God and there is no other, and even when things go poorly for us we can rest assured that He will comfort the afflicted and judge the oppressor. But whatever He does, He will be loving and just as He does it.
3) A recovery we can embrace (Habakkuk 1:12–2:3)
Sometimes in the face of hardship the character of God is all that we have to hold onto. Situations and circumstances press us and pull us from all sides but in the midst of change God’s character is steady and sure.
None of us want to have to learn lessons of trust and contentment through suffering. None of us want to endure hardships and loss like congresswoman Giffords or prophet Habakkuk. But at one time or another we will all unwilling enter into a time and season of life where we will ask God, “Why don’t You do something!” Evil will have seemingly triumphed over righteousness. And abuse will have engulfed justice. The wick will prosper and you will wonder, as we all do in times like this, where is God and what is He doing.
The truth of the matter is that God may never give you a straight and final answer to such questions but he does, in those moments of trouble give us something better than answers – He gives us Himself.
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