Habakkuk is a short book but deals with an important subject of suffering and evil. This is the beginning of a 3-part series called Trusting God in Troubled Times. Today we will look at Questioning God, followed by Waiting on God and lastly Rejoicing in God.

In Habakkuk 1, we see the prophet question God and God responds to him which leads to more questions. It’s a fascinating exchange that gets us into the heart of God and his purposes.

A. Questioning God

1 The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw. 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.

Habakkuk questions God but it seems like he’s not getting answer to his cries for God to help. It seems like he is ignored and abandoned in his time of need. He’s crying for justice in a wicked, unjust, perverted, immoral and violent context in Judah. Three couplets in v.3 describe this context of Habakkuk, iniquity (evil) and wrong (injustice), destruction and violence and finally strife and contention.  

In v.2 he says how long shall I cry for help? Will u not hear? Why are you silent? Don’t u care? In v.3 he says, why are you idle when you see all this suffering, injustice and evil. Are you ok with evil and injustice flourishing? His questions are direct and frank.

Maybe you have asked such questions. We don’t ask them vocally but surely they arise in our hearts. We go through seasons of deep frustration, anger and confusion because of various kinds of suffering. It can be because of the loss of a loved one, a false accusation, shattered hopes and dreams, facing injustice, violence, loneliness and even unanswered prayers. Why?

Why me? Why now? Where is God?

Religious paradigm tells us not to ask questions, entertain doubts and put a brave face on. External behavior and how we look is much more important than being honest with out doubts and fears. There is the idea of appeasing God by our good behavior. The secular paradigm on the other hand encourages questions but also leads to rejecting God because his answer does not make sense or that we don’t like God’s answers.  

God in scriptures invites us to question and wrestle with him faithfully. We see this in the book of Job, Jeremiah, Psalms and other passages. God has placed these texts in scripture precisely to help us understand that he knows what we feel and he is aware of our struggles.

We do get a sense that there is a good way to question God and a bad way, or a godly way to deal with our questions and an ungodly way. Here’s how to deal with your questions in a way that is consistent with God’s word.  

1. Come to God with your questions. God invites us to come to him, not to move away from him because of our questions. God already knows our heart and we don’t have to pretend about it. God calls us to be honest before him.

2. Come to God based on his good character. We can question God’s ways and methods because we don’t understand. But no one can question his character. God is holy, righteous, without blame and good.

3. Come to God with your questions knowing that you may not like his answer or understand his answer. God’s ways are higher and wiser than our ways. The secular view is to question God but walk away because we reject his answer. The religious view is to question God superficially and not really wrestle with the answer. God invites us to press into him and know him even though we may have to live with unanswered questions.

Instead of turning cynical and bitter, God calls us to wrestle faithfully. This kind of faith comes because of a personal relationship with Christ, takes an experience of the grace of God and an understanding of the gospel to move toward God in the midst of our struggles because we know him as our loving Father.

God calls to be faithful in midst of questions, honest and real with our struggles and cling to him as one who gives and sustains life and meaning.

B. Understanding God

Two broad questions arise in this chapter

The first question is, how can God allow injustice, evil and wickedness to flourish? If God is all-good, all-knowing and all-powerful, then there shouldn’t be any suffering. So if there is suffering, then there is no God or that he is not good and powerful as the Bible claims.

The underlying assumption about God is that if people are suffering, then God abandoned us, he does not care about us and he is okay with evil. But this assumption about God based on our circumstances is not true. God responds to Habakkuk’s question.

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.

God tells him don’t assume based on your circumstances that I am not silent and that I have abandoned and quit working and caring. On the contrary, I am working and I am doing something that will astound you. Look! See! Wonder! Be astounded!

Maybe you are going through a period like Habakkuk and struggling with questions. I want to encourage you that God is working in you and in your life even though you don’t see it or sense it. We see this in Joseph’s life. He was growing up to be a proud and arrogant person. And then he ended up in prison for 13 years. During this time, God was working on him, God was shaping history so that one day Joseph will be the man who God will use to save nations.

God’s response leads to a second question from Habakkuk. This is what God is doing in Judah.  

6 For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. 7 They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves. 8 Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on. Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour. 9 They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand. 10 At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it. 11 Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!”

Initially Habakkuk was troubled and puzzled by what seemed like God’s inaction. Now he is more puzzled by God’s actions. The Chaldeans or Babylonians are a ruthless, impetuous and greedy nation, which is dreaded and feared. They don’t have a sense of justice. They are like wolves and eagles preying on people to devour.  They drag their captives and destroy nations. God says I am going to use them to deal with the injustice and wickedness in Judah.

This was not what Habakkuk expected.

12 Are you not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof. 13 You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?

So his second questions based on God’s response is, how can a holy and righteous God use ungodly and wicked nation to punish his people. How is this fair? How is this good and just? Habakkuk is wrestling based on God’s good character. He says, God I know you are everlasting and you will not abandon your people. But why this? I know you are holy and you cannot look away from wrong. But I don’t understand what you are doing.  

Here is where we begin to understand God in his sovereignty and wisdom.

1. God’s ways are mysterious

First his inaction seemed strange and now his actions seem strange. God is sovereign, wise and his ways are higher than ours. If a 5 year old child cannot understand his parent’s decision to not allow too much gadget time, how can we expect to make sense of an all wise, all powerful, sovereign king of the universe. If a 5 year old child, even though he does not understand continues to trust the parent, how come we behave worse than a child when it comes to trusting our loving Father when we don’t understand his ways?

2. God’s ways can be misunderstood. His patience can seem like inaction, when he uses the wicked, it seems like injustice and when he uses suffering it seems incompatible with our plans.

3. God’s ways are always moral. God never goes wrong. He is good, righteous, holy and never guilty of any wrong.  

If you want to make sense of suffering, your faith cannot remain wishy-washy, immature, emotional, shallow and superficial. Our view of God has to get deeper. God does not exist to bless me, heal me, help me and do what I want in life to make me comfortable and happy. He is the sovereign king of this universe and we exist for his pleasure and glory. God allows, sends, ordains, governs and even ends suffering. Suffering does not threaten or thwart the purposes of God. He always turns it for our good and his glory.

C. Worshipping God

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.

Paul quotes this while preaching in Antioch,

Acts 13: 40 Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about: 41 “‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”

Paul is ultimately pointing to Christ! What is the astounding work God was doing in Habakkuk’s time? He was bringing about salvation to nations through Christ. Do you think Habakkuk would have understood the complexity of God’s redemptive plan?

How can anything good come out of suffering? Look at the cross!

How can evil turn out for our salvation? Look at the cross!

How can I be comforted in my suffering and pain? Look at the cross!

How can I get justice for my injustice? Look at the cross!

God cannot look at wrong and be silent and that’s why Jesus went to the cross to pay for our sins and the sins of this world.

Jesus wrestles with questions in the garden of Gethsemane as the weight of evil and suffering comes upon his shoulders. He says, I don’t understand, is there a way this cup can be removed? But he was faithful and says not my will but yours be done.

You are not abandoned in your suffering because Jesus was abandoned in your place.

How can God love me when I am so unfaithful in my suffering? It was because Jesus was faithful in his suffering on my behalf. It was because of Jesus you are unconditionally accepted, loved and cherished. You are the child of a king. Your present suffering leads you to greater glory and greater praise. Will you faithfully trust in God?

A person who tastes the grace of God doesn’t dessert God during troubled times but they faithfully depend on God to take them home. Will you come to God with your questions? Will you seek to understand God through his word? Will you worship God for saving us through Christ?

Ranjit David

Ranjit has been in Pastoral Ministry for the last 10 years in various settings. Coming from an Engineering background, he is passionate about working with young professionals in Delhi, using their gifts, teaching from God’s word, and having an open home. His training from Dallas Theological Seminary and Redeemer City to City has equipped him to serve strategically in an urban context.

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