The Bible is full of heroes who stood tall in the face of disappointment, challenge, pain, treachery, loss and death. However, there are a select few who chose to ask Jehovah to explain Himself. Not out of arrogance, but simply to find an answer to pressing questions and disappointment. “Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do you choose to make me suffer? Why are you silent when there is so much evil in the world? Why don’t you break the necks and gnash the teeth of my enemies? ” These were the questions that men like David, Job and Habakkuk asked. David died a king. Job died a wealthy man. Their stories had happy endings. Habakkuk, however, was left without a happy ending.
Two years ago, my best buddy, Evans and I started a Bible study on the minor prophets. I remember reading through Jonah, Micah, Nahum and then falling into Habakkuk. Habakkuk was so confusing, that I had to pause, re-read and then re-read again. But then, no matter how much I read it, it felt like a rabbit’s hole. The deeper I went, the deeper it got.
The book of Habakkuk had left me more confused than any other book in the Bible. It had also become one of my favorites, because, time and again, I would revisit the book to check if I missed something. It seemed like a puzzle that begged to be solved. Habakkuk asked the tough questions. But no matter how many times he asked them, Habakkuk for some reason, never seemed to get an appropriate answer. I admit that I even felt that God, the creator of the universe, was “ducking” the questions. In fact, by the end of his book, Habakkuk reaches a point of surrender. He is done asking questions. God has not answered any of his questions. Even if He did answer the question partially, He has not solved the problem. And yet, in the midst of disappointment and the pain of not finding answers to his questions and problems, Habakkuk says in chapter 3, that “though all fail, I will trust and be joyful in the Lord”. I wasn’t happy with the whole Habbakuk affair and felt that God did not respond to the matters that mattered the most to poor ol’ Habakkuk. I never understood how Habakkuk found his strength in God’s sovereignty. “The soverign Lord is my strength” he said. Why? How? God hasn’t even given a sufficient explanation to Habakkuk.
Hence, I asked God about two years back to give me a Habakkukian experience. A small one. Not something that is going to overwhelm me, or kill me, but something that will help me understand Abba better. Something that will help me understand Habakkuk’s stated “strength” in chapter 3. What did Habakkuk experience that stopped him from questioning God? What made Him accept, love and swallow the bitter pill of God’s sovereignty?
While I am writing this, I believe I have passed through a small “Habakkukian Battle”. A desperate prayer that brought me to my knees for at-least two months went unanswered. There were a few unanswered prayers in my life, but this was one prayer I NEEDED an answer to. Call me selfish if you’d like. Maybe my prayer was answered, or maybe it wasn’t answered the way I wanted it to be answered. I would ask God for His will in a matter and the only thing God would say is- “Trust in me with all your heart and lean not on your understanding” That was all He was saying. The rest of His speech to me was silence. It was annoying and painful that my favourite guide was silent when I needed Him the most. He wasn’t saying “Yes” or “No” or “Do this” or “Do that”. “The righteous shall live by faith”, He would say, as night after night my knees hit the ground and my eyes found no rest. It was painful. But it was a nice pain. Kind of like the cramping pain that runs through your muscles after a session of heavy exercise. It hurts, but you know its good for you.
The experience taught me a couple of lessons that I would not have learnt otherwise.
- God does not always reveal the answers to all our questions. Instead, He reveals Himself. Although a season of two months made me question Him, it made me pursue and know Him in a way I never knew Him before. It helped me write songs I would have never been able to write otherwise. It made me draw nearer to Him. It made me take an effort to go to Him. An extra hour in prayer never killed anyone. And so, I spent more time drawing water for my thirsty spirit from the well that never runs dry.
- God desires that every son of His learns to earnestly pray as Jesus did. Christ’s greatest victory on earth, began in the Gethsemane surrender. The world as we know it would have been entirely different if Jesus did not pray saying, “I desire that the cup be taken away from me. Nevertheless, Father, not my will. But Your will be done“. In that moment of humility, Christ received the grace from His Father to carry the weight of the world’s sin on His shoulders. Christ was obedient. Above all, Christ surrendered. Obedience was His strength. And yet, in Gethsemane , it was the surrender of Christ that showed His greatest muscle in His time of greatest weakness. Most times, we are faced with scenarios where obedience will suffice. Sometimes, surrender is what is needed. The greatest mark of humility is in surrender. And God gives grace to the humble.
- Going to God will not give you the answers to all life’s questions. Christ never said “I am the answer”. Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life”. One will understand only in the battlefield that the question is never “Where is God when it hurts?”. The question is “where am I when it hurts?”. Will I turn to human counsel? Will I take up a whole lot of assignments at office to keep my mind off my disappointment? Will I turn to alcohol , tobacco or pornography to drown my disappointment and forget my worries? Will I stay for endless hours on Youtube? Or will I turn to Jesus -the author and perfecter of my faith?
- No problem is too small- Far too often I have chided and mocked friends and believers for being disappointed with little things. What is of little importance to me might mean the world to them. And it is experiences like these that will teach a Christian his lessons on godly gentleness and unbridled empathy. It taught me that to Jesus, no problem is too big- and more importantly, no problem is too small.
Now, that I know these things, I think I have, for now, passed my test and learnt what Habakkuk learnt. I have found peace with that prophet and his book. I am still learning and I am a student. God’s wisdom has no end, and hence, one can never truly “graduate”. However, in my valley, questions that lingered on my head for two years have finally been answered. I am compelled to think that the best questions God answers, are answered in His silence.
It is good to question one’s own faith. It is good to ask God questions we have dared not ask Him. Too long has our generation relied on the faith of our fathers. Too long have we lived by faith that has been borrowed or handed down the generations or from the pulpit. These are good, but these are not enough. If a man does not have questions; he must assess if his faith is overly blind. It is one thing to trust God. It is another thing to find Him in the valley of silence.
I assume that now, in my own little way, I better know what Habakkuk meant when he said in chapter 3:17-19 “17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”
At some point of time in his life, every christian must have an epiphany from a Habakkukian battle that will transform his worry into His worship.