Read His Words Before Ours!
“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.
This is why the law is ineffective
and justice never emerges.
For the wicked restrict the righteous;
therefore, justice comes out perverted.”
If ever there was a prayer for 2020, this passage from Habakkuk pretty much covers it.
Pain, strife, injustice, violence, conflict, loss . . . all wrapped up in a God who has never felt further away.
Christmastime often taps us on our shoulder to remind us what we’ve lost throughout the year, or to bring attention to what we don’t have. Loved ones with whom we once celebrated who will not be sitting at the dinner table this year. Gifts we wish were under the tree, but for which the budget couldn’t make room. A special someone to share life with or children and a family of our own.
But 2020, and all its tumult, have truly humbled our hearts. What we thought was known has toppled into an overwhelming heap, perplexing us when we attempt to piece it back together.
Loss of jobs, businesses, and lives.
Sudden, rapid loss of our “normal.”
The loss of comfort in, and blindness to, the systematic racial inequities still existing in the world, despite the long and hard-fought battles already waged.
It seems impossible that God is here. That He is working. We want to cry out, like Habakkuk, “How long, God!?”
“Where are You now?”
“What are You doing?”
“Why don’t You save us?”
The book of Habakkuk shows us a raw and real conversation between God and Habakkuk on behalf of the nation of Israel. For hundreds of years, since the exodus from Egypt, Israel suffered from the plight of its own sin. Time after time, they turned away from God and deliberately disobeyed Him by worshiping other gods and idols, despite the Father’s constant grace and effort to bring them back to Him.
And so Israel fell, and suffered, at the hand of corrupt nations like Babylon. God delivered them, and they remained faithful . . . for a time. Until they abandoned their Deliverer, and the endless cycle began again, and again, and again.
We see both Habakkuk and God hurting for the world and the sin wreaking havoc at every turn. God shows Habakkuk that He, too, sees the hurt, the pain, the suffering, and the loss. His heart breaks, too. Even though it seemed inconceivable, God was working a plan far greater than their present troubles. In the midst of the consequences of our own sin and the ripple of others’, God’s glorious plan to save His people was being revealed.
I’m amazed at Habbakuk’s praise at the end of the book. Despite the absence of God’s immediate rescue, Habakkuk rests in God’s constant promises to deliver His people. Habakkuk didn’t have the Christmas story of Immanuel, God with us, or even the knowledge of the Easter story of the resurrection of Jesus, and yet he chose to trust in the midst of loss.
My favorite Christmas hymn lyrics, from the first verse of “O Holy Night,” simply and beautifully remind us of the “now” of our suffering and the “not yet” of the promise to come:
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appears and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!”
How long have you felt the weight of sin and error and pined for relief, crying out to God, “How much longer, Lord?”
Friend, when Christmastime taps us on the shoulder and we look back at 2020 and remember what was lost and painful, may the picture of an innocent baby named Jesus, born in the midst of chaos and filth, prompt our weary hearts to turn toward hope and the bright, new, glorious morning our Father has given us.
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!