Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Habakkuk Hope

Though I don't often go into detail, I'm in the middle of several raging storms right now. Life is not smooth for me. I daily face the realities of my dad's verbal abuse, caregiving for a grandma with a stroke, chronic illness, betrayal, denial, crime, abandonment, loss, unbelief, and terror. Every day is a silent struggle-- trying to survive a situation that cannot be easily explained or understood.

And as a person who has always looked for evidence of God's love in terms of how pleasant/blessed he makes my earthly journey, I've been one disappointed kid. The feelings of being abandoned are powerful. The temptation to deny God and turn my back is rhythmic-- like waves eroding the shore of my soul. How can God be loving and watch evil swallow us up? How can he be faithful with no sign of his justice year after year?

The prophet Habakkuk asked the same questions:
"How long, O 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 wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted."

Those questions swirl in my head all the time:

"Why do you make me look at injustice?"
"Why do you tolerate wrong?"

They could just as easily come from the mouth of a college student who's been mistreated by a professor, a mother who's lost a child, a relief worker at a calamity site, a woman who's been abused, or an old man on fixed income who's been robbed.

I'm sure not one of us has to think very hard to conjure up a situation where we were treated unjustly, or watched a loved one suffer unfairly.

Of course, the intensity of our questioning God is often directly proportional to the extent of injustice we see taking place. Some of it can move us to tears, while other times, we can be paralyzed, traumatized, literally begging, on the floor immobilized with sobs so deep they seem to shake our very soul from its foundation.

I've been there.

So when I see these questions asked of God in scripture, my first reaction is to sit up and take notice of the answer. God speaks to his prophet in this book, and after reading, I find myself both comforted and longing. Still waiting for more complete answers, but also assured.

The bottom line is, we're not going to fully understand here. It's not possible to understand God's ways. They are higher than ours. His timetable is not the same as ours.

As God answers Habakkuk with his plan, he says things about the specific situation that aren't really pertinent to me. But the overall message has universal meaning. God is working on my situation. Though I do not perceive it, he is there behind the scenes preparing and readying for the time of holy judgment.

My main idea is that God has not come fast enough for me. He has not corrected or prevented evil "in time." God did not come "in time" to heal Lazarus either. He let him die and left him in the grave 4 days. But God DID come. And what he did at that grave was more magnificent than the fastest healing of any sick man.

I was thinking of a passage in Philip Yancey's book ("Disappointment with God") where he describes God's hard-to-grasp omnipresence with an outer space analogy:

He refers to a star explosion (supernova) that can be seen from earth with the naked eye, but only 170,000 years later because of the vast distance the light must travel to reach our planet. When we look up in the sky, so many years after the fact, we see the impressive result of what happened long before. Though we were unaware of it (not even born) when it happened, the explosion set into motion a powerful blast of light. We just had to wait in order to see it with our own eyes.

If a being could somehow be big enough to inhabit all of space simultaneously, then, due to his sheer size, he would see both the star and our planet at the same time. It would thus be possible for him to see the star both when it exploded, and 170,000 years later when the light finally made its way to earth. From the small perspective of the earthling, the star explosion was discovered and happening in the "present moment." From the perspective of such a super-sized being, the supernova was arriving on earth at present, but had also been initiated long ago.

That is similar to how God is, Yancey says. God can see past, present, and future as he inhabits all time and space at once. He knows what is about to happen even before we have perceived it. And he tells Habakkuk to wait. He is raising up justice as we speak. He is preparing a people for that purpose that we do not yet perceive, and wouldn't even believe if we were told! God is always working on our behalf. Punishment WILL come to those who do evil. God's cup of wrath is coming around to them. He does not miss a single injustice.

So as a super-sized being in space, what would you tell the little person on earth, who is waiting to see the guaranteed supernova? For years he cannot see it in the sky. What would you tell him when he questions your assurance and doubts your promise because years go by without so much as a glimmer or a flicker of light?

The same thing God says to Habakkuk:
"For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay."

He goes on to remind us:
"For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea."

"...the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him."

When Jesus died on the cross and rose to life again, incredible power was released, and the devil was condemned to hell. We will soon see the full measure of God's victory just like that supernova in the sky. The power over death and evil has already been released. It will appear to us fully manifested on the chosen day. We must wait for it.

God talks of the day when we will finally see what he has seen coming all along. Though everything may look bleak and dark-- though we see righteous fall and evil succeed-- though the sky looks as it always has, with no flicker yet of what we've been told to look for... we still hold on with hope.

"I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes 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 rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights."
Habakkuk 3:16-19


Sarah said...

Great post. You are often in my thoughts and prayers. :)

emily said...

Your pain is so palpable. I don't even know what to say. I applaud you for sharing your pain and givingn it voice. I feel very far away from God right now, and I am not suffering nearly in the ways you are...Sending love, emily