Our mask mandate just lifted this week. It seems that life will be returning to some semblance of normal as we get used to breathing the unfiltered air and seeing each other’s faces again. California’s mandates and guidelines have been some of the most extreme in the United States but I have heard the stories from other countries around the world too; the political unrest, the wars, the death, the abuses of governments, and the novel corona virus seeping into all our lives have caused many unique losses.
Everyone seems to have all the answers. The news, social media, corporations, pastors, politicians, friends and family all claim to know the cure for all the unrest. Each perspective makes decisions on who is the villain and who is the hero, all the while people across the world suffer in their day to day lives.
I wonder at God and his inactivity. Out of fear I want to urgently fix all the problems I see. I can join in the discussions that claim to own the cure or the method or political process to end suffering. I think this is why Habakkuk 1 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Habakkuk also seeks answers from God. He wants to know why God isn’t moving to end the suffering and injustice that he sees around him. “How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds…”
Habakkuk’s spoken words reflect the words and thoughts that bounce around my own head. They are the questions that I ask God as I try to understand what is true, what is real and where God stands in the middle of the chaos. So, when God responds to Habakkuk’s questions, he is, in essence, responding to mine as well.
“Look at the nations and watch,” God says “— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”
God continues with his explanation, giving Habakkuk a sneak peek into some of the things he is doing. He talks of raising up nations that will promote their own honor and will act with cruelty against others. Words like ruthlessness, devouring, fear, and violence are all used in God’s response.
On the outset it doesn’t sound like a hopeful message. It sounds like suffering and pain are imminent for Habakkuk and God is at the helm of it all. It seems hopeless.
I have never had difficulty believing in the sovereignty of God. Of course God is in control, of course he can move people around the battle field to defeat the enemies. Of course his plans will be accomplished. It is a lot harder for me to believe that God is good. It is hard to believe that he loves absolutely and that he has good intentions, especially when it seems he is slow to act.
Yet, if I could truly believe that our God is good and that he has the best in mind for humanity then I can read his explanation in Habakkuk as hopeful. I can have faith that he is at work in the major movements of nations while clinging frantically to the truth that he is LOVE. In 2 Timothy 2:4, I find insight from Paul also: “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs,” he says, “but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”
When I put these two passages of Scripture side by side, I can see a little clearer. While the world is at war with itself and I question the presence and activity of God, I can rest assured that even though I can’t understand or comprehend the work that God is doing, he is still active and intentional in reconciling and healing. If I can rest in that truth, I can let the civilian affairs of the world drop as I focus on the day-to-day relationship I have with God himself.
The last two years have been unprecedented in my generation. A global pandemic, for goodness sake! But these years are not unique. I’ve seen death with my own eyes, terrorist attacks, brutal physical assaults, starvation, malnutrition, all the while knowing that there are worse evils I have not seen.
I can take it upon myself to become the savior, to believe that my righteousness will bring about justice in the world, but I am woefully incapable. The more that I try to save, to expose, to rail against the evil, the deeper I fall into a state of hopelessness and the angrier I get at the world around me.
That’s why Habakkuk resonates with me. I can hear God speaking to me in those words. Stop trying to figure it out, God says to me. Even if I gave you a play by play you wouldn’t understand and it wouldn’t help you anyway. Instead, look at me, I am the one who is, I am the one who knows, I am the one who saves. Don’t be fooled by the world, it may look as though I am inactive and silent but I am not. I am moving, I am in all and I hear every cry for help and mercy and I am working to heal this world.
The suffering in this world is incomprehensible but God’s love is greater. It is easy to say but hard to believe, so I cling to these words of God, desperate for the hope he alone brings.
Do you have questions for God? Do you wonder why he isn’t active? How do you find hope in the midst of the world’s chaos?