Maybe you’ve noticed that there are questions in life that are difficult to answer.
As a child, you ask questions like, “Why is the sky blue?” or “Where do babies come from?”
How about when you ask a child to do something and their question is, “Why?” Your response? “Because I said so.” Followed up by the child’s question, “Why?”
Trying to answer a child’s questions can be frustrating, especially when we don’t know the reason why the sky is blue.
Yet as we get older, our questions get more difficult.
- Why do bad things happen and where is God when bad things happen?
- Why did my marriage fall apart?
- Why is it that I work hard at my job, doing it with integrity and honesty, but the office jerk gets the promotion?
- Why is it that we tried to raise our kids according to Your word but now our kids are messed up?
- How come I try to do what Your word says and financially, and I’m not being blessed, and then; someone else is out there, they’re not even giving, and they’re being blessed?
- God, why am I constantly battling this depression or addiction?
- Why is it when I pray, nothing happens. But when my friend prays, his prayers get answered?
- God, it seems like You could do something, but You don’t. Why?
- Why don’t You seem fair?
I want to read you something that a friend of mine posted this week on Facebook. READ POST
The question is . . . How do you keep your faith, when you have questions that aren’t getting answered?
Let me show you a chart. This isn’t original to me, I borrowed it from Seth Godin’s book The Dip. This might explain where we find ourselves, as Christians, when what you see with your eyes is so different from what you believe in your heart.
You became a Christian when you were a kid or maybe later in life. Your life changed. You were excited. You were on this spiritual high. You prayed, and God seemed to answer your prayers. You read God’s Word and got something from it every time. You didn’t fall asleep during the sermon.
You felt so close to Him. It was easy to trust Him.
But after a while, the newness seemed to wear off. You read the Bible and it didn’t quite speak to you. You prayed, and instead of God doing what you asked, the opposite happens. Church doesn’t seem nearly as relevant as it used to. You had a crisis of belief. You thought God was close, God was good, and God was just, but that doesn’t seem to be the case and you started questioning God.
That’s called the dip, and everyone goes through this dip . . .
But it’s what you do during these times that is important because if you continue to stick with God through all the pain and darkness, through all your struggles with doubt, He’s going to take your faith to a place of intimacy, trust, and security that you never, ever dreamed possible.
Over the next few weeks we’re going to look at the private journal of a prophet named Habakkuk; a guy who knows exactly what it’s like to have some tough questions for God. And what we’ll see is a back and forth honest conversation between God and a believer who is struggling with the way things are.
And although it was written by Habakkuk as a private journal to help him process what he was experiencing, God placed this book in scripture because the act of questioning God is something we can all relate to, and it’s ultimately something that can lead us to worship.
It’s my hope that this book will do the same for us.
Before we jump in let’s pray.
Habakkuk was a prophet who lived in the 7th Century BC and his people were in a heap of trouble. They lived under a king who was cruel and corrupt and had complete disregard for God and the covenant relationship He had established with his people. That he will be their God and they will be his people.
The nation of Israel was almost literally falling apart . . .
- Wickedness and oppression were everywhere
- Crime was up and violence in the streets became commonplace.
- The justice system was a joke.
- Judges and politicians are getting paid off.
- Nobody is taking care of the widows and the orphans.
And it seems that God is just sitting on the sidelines watching it happen.
And this is so frustrating for Habakkuk and so he goes to God and says . . . Are you seriously just gonna sit there and keep silent? Come on God . . . it’s time for you to step up your game.
Now some people may think that it’s inappropriate to shout out and challenge God like this but to be honest, I wish that we did more of it because the biggest problem, as I see it, isn’t’ shouting at God but thinking that God is so distant and so unreal that shouting isn’t worth it.
You see, it’s only when we believe that God is present and intensely real that we bring our deepest, hardest, most honest questions before him.
And that’s what Habakkuk is doing.
And his questions were based on a premise: that God is good and that he can’t tolerate evil. In other words, Habakkuk’s questions were statements of faith.
He’s asking God why aren’t you acting in a way that is consistent with who I believe you to be.
Finally, God breaks his silence and he says, “Ok, I’m about to do something so astonishing that you wouldn’t believe it if I told you but since you won’t stop asking me what I’m gonna do . . . I’ll tell you. I’m going to get rid of your king by rousing up the Babylonians and they’re going to come in and conquer your country, drag your people off into exile and destroy your temple.”
Well, this wasn’t the response Habakkuk was looking for so he says to God, “That’s a really bad plan.”
Those guys are bad dudes, way worse than our king. It’s like planting kudzu to prevent soil erosion. It’s like importing poisonous snakes to get rid of mice.
And so Habakkuk is like, “Seriously God, this is your plan?”
And then he starts comparing his people to the Babylonians. He holds up the pile of Babylonian bad stuff to the Israelites bad stuff and he’s like, God don’t you see this . . . their pile is way bigger than our pile . . . so why on earth would you use the Babylonians?
Have you ever done that . . . look at the lives of others and justify your own wrong doing because “at least I’m not like that”?
And so God comes back and says, “Yeah, I know how bad they are but I need you to know that I can see a way bigger picture of things than you can. And I know this doesn’t make any sense to you but you have to trust that I’m going to set things right because I am good and I am just.”
I don’t know how all of this played out in Habakkuk’s life. We don’t know if he survived the events that he wrote about in his journal. But we do know that he managed to hold on to his faith and he continued to worship God despite not fully understanding what God was doing.
And he wrote a song to be used by his people for a time when they wouldn’t feel like worshipping.
When Babylon invaded, when the temple was destroyed, and the people were in exile, and it felt like God had abandoned them, they would have this song to guide them in their worship and to help them keep the faith.
So, this liturgy is for us when we don’t feel like worshipping, when we are barely holding on and it feels like we’ve lost our way.
But instead of preaching on it, we’re going to do something similar to what we did a few years ago when we look at the Psalms.
I’m going to invite you to Habakkuk’s song as an example to write your own prayer or song.
Don’t get hung up on form. Don’t try to make it quality poetry. If you’re a musician, don’t shift over into song writing mode.
Let it flow naturally.
Habakkuk’s song begins by crying out to God and remembering how things used to be. The high point of our faith. He looks back in his life and he see’s snapshots of how good things used to be and then he looks forward and he doesn’t like what he see’s and so he says, “God, I like that a lot better. Do it again. Don’t let them just be memories, do it again”.
Take a minute to reflect on the good things in your life and ask God to renew those days.
Often times our pain and our suffering takes us to the dip . . . a place where it seems that God can’t be found but God is always present and it’s an amazing thing to stand in a place that looks deserted by God’s presence, and to find that instead of being absent, he is very much there. That’s what happens in the second part of this prayer. Habakkuk cries out to God and discovers God’s presence.
Take a minute to pray that what happened to Habakkuk happens to you. That in pain and suffering, you would find God’s presence; that he would become more real to you than you could ever have imagined.
This hasn’t been an easy prayer for Habakkuk. He’s cried out to God. He’s asked God to act again. He’s seen God’s presence, even when God seemed most absent. But he’s still full of fear. His situation hasn’t changed. Things aren’t any better but something in him has changed.
In the final verses, Habakkuk moves to trusting God unconditionally, even when everything seems to be falling apart.
Take a minute to ask for that kind of faith. That even in the midst of your suffering, you will continue to have faith.
Now that you have your own version written, pray it out to God. Speak it out loud. If you’re a musician and you’re moved, sing it out with a simple melody. Repeat it once or twice. Then end with some quiet space of reflection and listening.
Once you’ve done this you have something very precious – your own prayer, inspired by scripture, informed by your own circumstances.
Let’s pray together . . .
Father, I thank you for the prayer that Habakkuk has given us, so we know where to place our feet when we lose our way. Thank you that it is real and a little bit raw. Thank you that it ultimately leads us back to see your presence and to trust you, even if nothing else changes.
Thank you as well for that we know something that Habakkuk didn’t. Thank you that we know that “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
May we continue to hope and rest in his love. Amen.