Learning to Trust the Story When You Don’t Like the Chapter You Are In
If you have ever found yourself looking at the condition of the world and wondering: “God, where are you in all of this?” If so, Habakkuk is the forefather of that feeling!
Habakkuk’s short three-chapter “book” is a prophetic poem with a real problem. Israel, the people who were supposed to be “the people of God” were not living up to their name. And far from it! They were doing the very things that their enemies were guilty of: taking advantage of the poor and oppressed, worshipping idols (false gods), and even sacrificing their children to these false gods! It is no wonder Habakkuk begins by asking God if He is even listening (Habakkuk 1:2).
In essence, God says He not only is listening, but He has been scheming, putting together a plan that will effectively end the corruption of Israel. Yes, Israel was headed into exile. This was no adult-version of a time-out. Exile meant being taken captive by the enemies, the godless Babylonians who were known for their brutality. The God of Israel was allowing the Babylonians to rise to power to be the tool of disciplinary function.
Habakkuk cannot believe it. Habakkuk 1:13 captures the distress:
“Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, and you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. So why do you tolerate those who are treacherous? Why are you silent while one who is wicked swallows up one who is more righteous than himself?”
In essence, why does God even consider using such terrible people for His purposes? What is hard for Habakkuk (and maybe us) to understand is that God’s macro program is the lens by which all other micro plans need to be viewed. God’s grand vision is to restore the world and with it, all people who trust in Him (see Habakkuk 2:14). If that is the case, it will require God’s people, those who truly are “righteous” to live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4).
That is where Habakkuk finds Himself. He is faced with the reality that the grand plan of God is ultimately good, but the chapter of the story where his life exists is in a… well… not so fun chapter to live in. But that is where faith comes in! God isn’t calling His people into blind faith. Quite the opposite.
Biblical faith is a believing loyalty to trust the story even when you don’t like the chapter you are in. It is a prevailing perspective to see the circumstances through the lens of the goodness of God. It is knowing that God is the author, and if the story isn’t good than it means it’s not over; because restoration will be the final plot twist of the story. It is living with triumphant joy in the Lord because the circumstances of this life are not the final word. Salvation is not limited in scope to our deliverance in the here and now.
Let’s be honest, if we had the pen in our hands we would write the story differently. There would be things we would change and things we would add. One of the hardest things to accept is that we are not the authors of this thing we call “life.” Life is not a concoction of billions of autobiographies colliding into one another. There is only one author… God. He is the main character and no one rivals His central arc of the story.
God is the author of history, but that does not mean we are puppets forced to act out a certain of pre-determined fate. We are not disposable pawns in the hands of God. Rather, we are the object of His affection.
J.M.L. Monsabre, a Dominican pastor from the 1800’s once famously said:
“If God would concede me His omnipotence for 24 hours, you would see how many changes I would make in the world. But if He gave me His wisdom too, I would leave things as they are.”
We need to let that sink in. Divine wisdom is the reason God does what He does. Because He is wise and working things towards ultimate restoration, we can trust Him.
Habakkuk’s dialogue with Yahweh communicates one overarching message: that the life of God’s people is a journey in learning to trust the story.
Learning to trust the story doesn’t mean we accept a certain pre-determined fate. Trusting the story means acting in accordance with God’s plan to save the world. It means being an agent and ambassador of His kingdom, participating in its inaugurated reality now, even when it is not fully here yet. It means submitting to the kingship and reign of God even when we disagree or don’t understand. It means voluntarily submitting our volition to find alignment with our innate design.
(((Caveat on free will: Free will isn’t completely “free.” It is not like God gives us a blank canvas and says, “Do what you want!” It is more like God says: “I love you and I have a desire to partner with you and invite you into life with me. However, since I want your heart it has to be your choice.”)))
He calls us to trust the story. And by doing so, we then embody the meaning of Habakkuk 2:4 when it says: “the righteous will live by faith.”
The message God has for Habakkuk is that things are going to be hard for a while. Habakkuk won’t get to see the revival he was hoping to see in his lifetime, but it is a good thing life here (whether we live in times of prosperity or times of adversity) is not life eternal.
And in the meantime, the words of Habakkuk 3:17-19 can be ours too.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though the flocks disappear from the pen and there are no herds in the stalls,
18 yet I will celebrate in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!
19 The Lord my Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights!
Those radical words can be ours even when circumstantial prosperity is non-existent. And that, my friends, is the mystery of God’s goodness on this side of life… that we can have such resilient joy even when the circumstances do not match the condition of our soul.
Wherever you are at today, I want you to know that if Habakkuk could speak of abounding on mountain tops like a deer while being in such terrible times, we can too, after all, we know how the story ends even more than Habakkuk did. We know that God, as the good author, will not let evil and suffering win. Trust Him. Trust the Author. Trust the story.
On the journey with you,
Brayden Rockne Brookshier
(This has been a blog post inspired by episode #42 of the Adventures in Theology podcast). Listen to this episode of the podcast on Apple podcasts, Anchor, Spotify, or wherever else you enjoy streaming podcasts!