The book of Habakkuk goes from worry to worship, he starts out in fear and ends in faith. Habakkuk’s name means to “embrace” or “wrestle.” God welcomes honest inquiries. Wrestling with God puts Habakkuk in the good company of others biblical wrestlers like David, Joseph, and Jacob who took up their issues with God (Hab. 1:1-11). Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zephaniah and wrote at the beginning of Babylonian world domination.
When life crumbles all around us, we need not despair (Hab. 3:16-18). All these deliverances and provisions foreshadow the coming of Christ. Habakkuk shows the authentic part of worrying about the “what ifs.” Freelance writer Vaneetha Risner points out a reframing for the “what ifs.” Though Habakkuk pleaded with God to save his people, he closes his book with this exquisite “even if” approach to replacing the “what ifs”:
“(Even if) the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes,
(even if) the olive tree fails to produce
and the fields yield no food,
(even if) the sheep pen is empty
and the stalls have no cattle—Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.
I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Hab. 3:17-18)
This book is a testimony that when things do not go as hoped and dreamed, it should not stop anyone from worshipping and putting their faith in Him. Habakkuk provides this remarkable section in Scripture as an extended dialogue between himself and God. The prophet initiates the conversation based on his impatience about God’s “inaction” in the world. He wants to see God do more, particularly adjudicating the evildoers. Habakkuk 2:2-4 has been loosely translated as “Life sucks, and then you die.” His is a picture of a frustrated prophet. The difference between Jonah and Habakkuk is one channels his frustration into prayers and eventual praise to God, rather than trying to run away.
There is a saying that the only predictable thing is change. That’s true in the world but certainly not when dealing with God. Habakkuk asked God the kind of questions echoed today, “Why do you force me to look at evil, I stare trouble in the face day after day” (Hab. 1:3)? With God, no place is too dark, no wall too thick for God’s grace to penetrate in a powerful and life-affirming way.
Who hasn’t asked “Why God why?” as Habakkuk does pleading for God to do more in a situation that we think merits His intervention. Just as His actions are predicted in the book of Nahum, in God’s time, His intervenes in situations. It is a blessing in disguise that God does not act impulsively to our pleas.
Habakkuk begins in verse 12 claiming that God is eternal. It’s an important clue because it means God keeps His promises because He’s in it for forever. God has a perspective we can only fathom in the grand scheme of things. He knows that God will not destroy the Israelites because of His covenantal promises. It explains what Habakkuk says: “We will not die” (Hab. 1:12).
The challenge for Habakkuk is the injustice troubling him becomes more and more acute. He questioned his experiences, based on earlier prophets’ teachings of the calamities of punishment that fall on nations. To him, the strong, powerful nations were not any more righteous than the ones that were subservient to them. To him, it seemed, the honest and moral person suffers the unjust treatment, while the wicked enjoy comforts and prosperity. God doesn’t justify or rationalize His ways, and no immediate answer is given to Habakkuk’s questions, yet a rallying call came from Him that “the righteous person will live by his faithfulness” (Hab. 2:4).
During a therapy session of mine, the subject of “worldly lies” was brought up. The therapist and I laughed afterward when he said that based on his knowledge of my background and studies, he felt I knew better, but still I answered from the heart. Ingrained thoughts and habits are hard to break but of worthy effort. Some of those lies taken are from The Lies We Believe, written by Dr. Chris Thurman:
I must be perfect.
I must have everyone’s love and approval.
It’s easier to avoid problems than to face them.
I can’t be happy unless things go my way.
My unhappiness is someone else’s fault.
You can have it all.
My worth is determined by my performance.
Life should be easy.
I shouldn’t have to wait for what I want.
People are basically good.
All my marital problems are my spouse’s fault.
If my marriage takes hard work, my spouse and I must not be right for
My spouse can and should meet all my emotional needs.
My spouse owes me for what I have done for her/him.
My spouse should be like me.
Things are black or white.
The past predicts the future.
I often reason things out with my feelings rather than the facts.
God’s love must be earned.
Because I’m a Christian, God will protect me from pain and suffering.
All my problems are because of my sins
It is my Christian duty to meet all the needs of others.
A Christian doesn’t feel angry, anxious or depressed.
God can’t use me unless I’m spiritually strong.
Logically, I know these are lies, but years of worldly conditioning still, at times, has a hold of me at times, particularly when I grow weary. If we are, say good enough or pretty enough then we will be worth for someone to fall in love with us. That is part of the same trap of thinking God rewards us for behavior or appearances. It’s not God who puts these thoughts into our minds but Satan lying, “Worship me and I’ll give it (whatever what lie consider) to you” (cf. Lk. 4:7-8). Another snare is reaching that certain point in life, you become susceptible to adding the “should’ves, would’ves, could’ves” to that list.
The Apostle Paul said, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (cf. 2Tim. 3:16–17).
Prophecy is not gee-whiz information designed to tell us exactly and when something is going to happen in the future. There is wisdom in what Canadian clergyman Carey Nieuwhof says “It’s okay to doubt your doubts. Live like God loves you and everything you read in the Bible is true.”