Encounter: Spend a few minutes in silence, clear some space in your schedule and in your mind to refocus your thoughts on God. Read through the short book of Habakkuk which is only 3 chapters long. Use a readable version like the New Living Translation. Then go back and read chapter 1 verses 1-4. Next go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPMaRqGJPUU to get a historical overview of this prophet's life and purpose.
On Tuesday of this week I drove to the BMV to take care of my vehicle registration and the helpful attendant began talking to a co-worker about a shooting that had happened just a few hours before. Her daughter’s school locked down their campus and with little or no information she said she drove with her hazard lights on, blowing through every stop sign and light on the way to get to her child.
Later she would find out the shooting happened miles away and did not involve a school but we would all shake our heads in disbelief after learning that Gary Copley (a school mate of mine) had been gunned down in his driveway. From the teenager shot as he walked off the bus in Greenwood to flooding emergencies from Dallas to the southwest, drought and hunger in the horn of Africa with Somalia at risk of losing 40 % of their population due to starvation, Russia invading the Ukraine for six months now with no end in sight, our questions are appropriate and honest in the extremes of suffering we are witnessing in our world.
And so like every human that has ever lived we struggle to understand and we cry out, "How Long O Lord must I call for help!" Have you ever wanted to ask God, “If you’re in control and so powerful, why does evil so often look like it's winning?” If so, you will identify with this minor prophet, Habakkuk, who entered into a great debate with God.
Habakkuk, whose name means wrestler, struggled with God bringing his questions as relevant today as they were then. How can a just God ignore injustice? Why does God allow the wicked to prosper? Can a good God use evil for purposes beyond our understanding? The prophet fought to comprehend how God works, and through all of his wrestling became convinced that he could trust God no matter how dark or confusing circumstances appeared to be.
Austin Fischer in his book Faith in the Shadows mentions both surrender and rebellion as a response to evil. He writes,
…we must surrender to evil in the sense that we should reject any and all attempts at “understanding” it by downplaying its true horror, surrender is not all that is asked of us. No-we are also taught to rebel against evil.
As opposed to some Eastern religions where detached surrender is the proper posture toward the world and its evil, Christianity is marked by a foundational tension between surrender and rebellion. And when this tension threatens to rip us apart, we pray, we sing, we partake of the body and blood of Christ that was pulled apart at the seams to gather us all together. We surrender and we rebel. We shed tears, but they are buoyant tears, filled with hope, surrender, and defiance - - tears that incite a resurrected rebellion, for the sake of creation, in the name of Christ. Easter doesn’t make us pushovers; it makes us rebels.
It seems fitting to take time out and wrestle with the subject of evil and so this Sunday we will talk about what surrender and rebellion to evil looks like in our daily lives and how it is possible to get to the place where we say along with Habakkuk,
Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.
Renew them in our day, in our time make them known;
in wrath remember Mercy. (Hab. 3::2)
Yes, Lord, Renew them in our day through your church. Amen.
Wrestling with you,
Reflect: Have you ever sounded like Habakkuk in your complaints to God? What was happening in your life at the time? What was it that you thought God could be doing that was left undone? As you have brought your complaints to God in your life, have you ever felt like you received an answer and if so what was it?
Encourage: As you watch the news and hear of the evil and suffering around our community and our world, see it as a call to prayer, to encourage, to give, to serve, to remember, to keep wrestling with God as Habakkuk did, asking God to restore and renew once again. And ask, “What can we do?”
Gather: Talk in your small groups about the questions you have wrestled with in regards to evil, pain and suffering. As with other times when the prophets spoke, they lived in times when a great majority of people called evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20). Have you experienced this? Write down your questions as a group and continue to pray and seek God to give you understanding or to be able to surrender to the mystery of what is yet to be revealed based on what God has revealed of His love towards humanity.