How the Book of Habakkuk has some of the best encouragement for 2019
2018 was a year stained by nasty political tension and division, school shootings, sexual harassment and abuse stories, natural disasters, and countless horrible tragedies.
Stories on the evening news and social media outrage have left us distressed. Chances are, before you read this, you've already seen a dozen blog and op-ed pieces entitled something along the lines of, "Why 21st Century America is Screwed" or "Why 2018 was The Worst Year of the New Millennium".
In the wake of our world's most recent calamities, sometimes it might feel like our world is more doomed than it ever has been before. We might ask, "Why must evil persist? Is 'good' losing? Is 'evil' winning? Are we as a society at an all-time worst?".
A few months ago, I finished reading through the entire Bible on my own, for the first time in my life. Along the way, I saw a number of stories — that I had grown up with in Sunday school — in a new light, and learned a lot about a new batch of characters that are often overlooked.
The most impactful piece of scripture I read in 2018 came late in the Old Testament, in the form of Habakkuk, a short, three-chapter book about a little-known prophet. Using March Madness terminology, Habakkuk is the UMBC Retrievers of the Bible; a mysterious, unnoticed dark horse capable of captivating your interest for a few days in March (or any month for that matter).
The book starts with Habakkuk pouring his heart out to the Lord, asking God why everything in Israel is seemingly going wrong. In verses 2-4 of the first chapter, he makes his anguish known to God:
"2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
3 Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
4 So the law is paralyzed,
and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
so justice goes forth perverted."
The closer I look at what Habakkuk is complaining of, the more I see that the problems of Israel in this time period (roughly somewhere between 700-600 B.C.) mirror those of modern civilization. In between then and now, an incalculable amount of horrible things have taken place over the course of history. While the specifics of our disasters may be different today, the root problem of them remains the same: evil (more specifically: sin).
In other words, the earth is no less evil today than it has ever been before.
What the Lord says next in response, has been my go-to verse since discovering this hidden gem of a passage.
The Lord's Answer
5 “Look among the nations, and see;
wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
that you would not believe if told.
Even in the darkness, God's light shines brightly. God is doing something great in Habakkuk's life at this time, even though Habakkuk might not see it yet.
Also note that God doesn't say, "I am doing a work in THESE days". He says, "I am doing a work in YOUR days". Since he doesn't use "these days", we know that this message is still relevant in OUR days. This message does not have an expiration date.
So what could God be doing in your days, that you may be overlooking by being concentrated on the darkness? Or what could God be doing in your days that you might not believe, even if you were told? The answers to these questions may not be revealed for quite some time, but God is working right now nonetheless.
Maybe 2018 was a difficult year for you. Maybe 2018 presented several roadblocks in your personal life that you could not have anticipated. That certainly was the case for me. During our planet's last trip around the sun, I spent a night in the hospital, wore an EKG for a full month, and have dealt with continued struggles stemming from a thyroid disease that has kept me out of work.
Still, I know that God is doing an incredible work in my life right now. He's working on something so mightily wonderful – something that I never would have been able to come up with myself. Even in our momentary struggles, God is renewing us daily, filling us with joy, teaching us new lessons for our benefit, and allowing our battles to serve as an encouragement to others enduring similar challenges.
Maybe someday God will allow me to speak publicly about suffering from an autoimmune disease. Maybe one day I'll write a book about what I gained from my time on the DL (Disabled List- for those that aren't sports fans). Only God knows entirely what can be accomplished through my weaknesses. For right now, He's continuing to draw me closer to Him and giving me peace of mind over the things I cannot control.
Our world may be struggling today, but one day, it will all be worth it.
Let's enter 2019 with this in mind. Happy New Year, my friends.
(Image via www.skydiving.co.uk)