I love reading books and I am so thankful for those that write them and impart wisdom to us as they teach us what they have first been taught by God. There are so many paths God takes His children down for His glory and their sanctification…and yet, at some point, we walk the same roads and greatly benefit from the exhortation and encouragement they provide, having gone before us. What a gift it is to live in this day and age of easy access to writers, both old and new!
Do you ever finish reading a book feeling like you are now friends with the author? You’ve laughed with them and if you are like me, usually cried with them, too. You’ve felt their enthusiasm and their pain. You have nodded your head more times than you can count, often with a smile on your face. You’ve expressed delight in things they have said, not with words but with underlining and notations. You’ve reread sentences or paragraphs, digesting truth or wrestling through difficult statements, and it’s stretched you and grown your discernment muscles.
I spent the morning with the prophet Habakkuk and several of the emotions I just shared bubbled to the surface in our short time together. His book is just three chapters long, yet I walked away thankful for his life and for the road God placed him on during the increasingly troublesome days for Judah. The days he lived in bear a strong resemblance to the days we are living in right now. I was amazed by the similarities and encouraged by the prayers Habakkuk lifted up to the throne and, even more, blessed by the responses God gave. Just because we will flip the calendar to a new year this week, we have no promise that 2021 is going to be any easier than the year we have just experienced…and we all need hope.
Habakkuk starts with a prayer; a prayer that finds him sounding pretty discouraged and even a little confused: “How long, Lord, must I call for help and You do not listen, or cry out to you about violence and You do not save? Why do you force me to look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Oppression and violence are right in front of me. Strife is ongoing and conflict escalates.” (1:2-3) He knew there was only One who could help, only One who could truly save, and that is who he petitioned. Our merciful God answered back. You know He always answers! Sometimes it’s with a no, sometimes a yes and, most often, He tells us to wait. Wait on Him, that is.
This time is no different. God lets Habakkuk know in Chapter 2 that the answer is coming: “Though it delays, wait for it, since it will certainly come and not be late” (2:3b). And if, even for a moment, Habakkuk should wonder what to do during the wait, God reminds him that “the righteous one will live by his faith” (2:4b). He gave this obscure and largely unknown prophet the assurance of His presence in answering his cry of confusion. He reminded him of His promises, though there be a season of waiting, and He showed Habakkuk what He purposed for him to do amidst the wait: keep walking by faith.
Habakkuk started with a prayer of petition that was filled with confusion and apprehension. Yet, by the end of this short book, we read a beautiful declaration of contentment…a confident praise in the God of his salvation:
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit 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 triumph in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17-18
The circumstances had not changed, but he was reminded of the character of God…and that changed everything!
Thousands of years later, our hearts still echo the words of Habakkuk, our friend and fellow brother in Christ. We still cry out to the only One who can save when we are discouraged, confused or weary from waiting, and He still faithfully answers through His Word and the circumstances He brings…reminding us of His presence, His promises and His purposes that will not fail, though our perspective grows dim at times. Just like in the days of Habakkuk, our hope cannot be in a new calendar year, or in a different set of circumstances. Our realities on December 31 at 11:59 p.m. will not look any different a minute later, no matter how joyfully we shout “Happy New Year” to those around us. Our eyes must be fixed on the One that is constant amid our changing circumstances or the waiting that stretches on indefinitely. Only then can we offer up a sacrifice of praise:
“Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness. I say, ‘The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.’” Lamentations 3:23-24
In this we rest. In this we rejoice. And into this love we run!