Sometimes the prophets in the Old Testament strike me as a bit intimidating. They appear to be spiritual superheroes as they speak God's truth in the face of what I would consider to be nearly insufferable persecution and something surprising directives from God, "Hey Elijah, why don't you head down to the river bed - and I'll just send some ravens with your food each day!" (see 1 Kings 17). Many of us can relate immediately to Habakkuk, however. He began his book by complaining! Then, despite his numerous questions and doubts, he discovered amazing truths about his God.
Habakkuk's initial complaint seems quite valid (Habakkuk 1:1-4). He observed the moral decay all around him and wondered where God was. (sound familiar?) How could the Lord just sit back and allow these terrible injustices to go unchecked?
God's response was really interesting to me (verses 5-11). He wasn't preoccupied with other things. God was watching and keeping an account of all of these wrongs. And He was about to do something about sin and evil. The only problem for Habakkuk was that God's solution was the last thing he probably expected. Certainly God intended to judge the wicked - but He was planning to carry out that justice by sending the Babylonians to conquer the nation of Israel!
I was as confused as Habakkuk (verses 12-17). How can God punish evil with more evil? Doesn't that go against His nature? If God is holy and unable to tolerate impurity, how can he use it for his own purposes? Which relates this back to things like Haiti, my dissertation, my friends' present trials. How long, O Lord? And if You really do work for the good of those who love You (Romans 8:28), why all of this strife?
As Habakkuk complained again, "God, why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?" (1:13), God's response followed in the following chapter (2:2-20). In this passage, the Lord directed His people as to how he wanted them to live - despite the evil all around them: "The righteous will live by faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). This statement first implies that God's people accept God's methods and His timing, even when they don't understand. Habakkuk (and we) needed to come to terms with the fact that the despised nation of Babylon fit into God's plan - whether or not the Babylonians realized it. Everything - everything - is working toward an ending. I have to come to terms with understanding that spending 7 years in graduate school, and 3 years on one crummy dissertation, fit into God's plan. Beth Moore once said, "God means for me to cast my utter dependency only on Him. His plans do not depend on any human - nothing and no one critical to my God-planned future can fail to come through once God says it's time! No human has the power to overlook what God determines to oversee."
Living by faith means that God's people accept God's words. It means believing that even if every shred of evidence points in the opposite direction, God is in the right, and we can bank on God's word as our only reliable investment. There may be times when we doubt God's purpose because of our inability to see a situation from His perspective, but as we get to know Him better, we can declare along with the prophet Habakkuk, "Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior!" (Habbakuk 3:18).
I believe even Jesus struggled with these issues of trusting God's plan as he poured out His soul to His Father in Gethsemane just prior to his arrest. "My Father," he pleaded, "if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. YET not as I will, but as You will" (Matthew 26:36). Could good really result form such unspeakable evil? Could God's plan truly be to offer ultimate hope to humanity through the sacrifice of His own Son in one of the most bitter scenes in all of human history?
Notice that Jesus, like Habakkuk, used the word yet.
"Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, " asserted Habakkuk.
"Yet not as I will, but as you will," declared Christ.
Both are exemplary prayers of submission to the Father's perfect plan.
I pray that in the midst of unexplainable circumstances, we might all respond with Yet...knowing that in all things, God does work for the good of those who love Him.