Article: When we can’t see the hand of God, We can trust the heart of God! | Jacob Varghese
We all believe “Prayer changes things” but what can we say when we have prayed and nothing changes? If you are honest, you would acknowledge with me – you know what unanswered prayer is like, even if we don’t pray formally. Life indeed is a mystery. Much of what happens in life is beyond us. And even if it were explained to us, we probably would not be satisfied with it. We long for sensibility. We seek explanation. We are desperate for a reason. God never explains himself. He rarely gives reasons. The events that unfold in our world seldom make sense. We therefore are confronted with the basic principle of Christianity: The righteous live by faith. Though we often get wonderful answers to our prayers, there are times in our lives when we get discouraged and disappointed with the problems of unanswered prayers. We do experience divine intervention as we wait on our Lord. Yet there are times when we find there is no response to our prayers. Most of the times our prayers are very personal in nature. How many times you and I pray to God for the community/society where we live when we see the condition of things around us, and encounter problems for which we do not have a solution. I would like to turn your attention to Habakkuk who is complaining to God about the society where he lives.
Perhaps the greatest expression of fearless faith ever penned came from the Old Testament spokesman, Habakkuk. Most prophets spoke to the people for God. Habakkuk spoke to God for the people. He lived in times that were hard on faith. He saw righteous suffering and the wicked prospering. He asked God the two questions we often ask: “Why?” and “How long?”. Why are these things happening? How long will it be there before they are rectified? Habakkuk was one of the small prophets. He was a free-thinking prophet who was not afraid to wrestle with issues that test his faith. It was not easy for him to turn away from the oppression of the weak, the dismissal of the poor, dishonest dealings, constant fighting, public conflict and the destruction of the fabric of social life. In short, a wholesale abandonment of God’s will by the people whose very reason for existing was to be a visible witness to God’s way with the world.
The book of Habakkuk is fairly a straightforward book. It consists of two complaints put to God by the prophet followed by two answers given by God to the prophet. It finishes with a prayer in chapter three. Habakkuk begins as a frustrated prophet. He was surrounded by violence, injustice, strife and evil, poor becoming poorer, inequality, moral down going of the society and it seem to him that God is just sitting on the side-lines watching it happen. He doesn’t seem to care. God remained silent and invisible. In his frustration Habakkuk cries out “how long O Lord, must I call out for help, but you do not listen” Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever felt like crying out to God, “Just do something, anything to correct whatever is going on out here?” Finally, God answers, but it was not the answer Habakkuk was looking for. God informs him that he is going to raise up the Babylonians to punish Israel for their sin. This gives rise to Habakkuk’s second complaint. “How could you God? How could you raise up a nation like Babylon to destroy a nation more righteous than them? It’s not fair. It’s not the sort of thing a holy God is supposed to do. “Again, God’s answer to Habakkuk is to calm his fears. He assures him that what he is going to do will be just. Israel will be punished for their sin but so will the Babylonians. The book ends with Habakkuk’s prayer focusing on God’s faithfulness.
God revealed to Habakkuk that the Babylonians, the epitome of everything Habakkuk and God detested would become God’s instrument of judgment on Judah. Habakkuk did not understand. He could not explain it. For a time, evil would win over righteousness and bad things would happen to good people. God’s hand would not move. His face would not be seen. Yet throughout this time of punishment, God reminded Habakkuk of correct living: The righteous will live by faith. Habakkuk realized that though he did not understand God’s ways or timing, he could not doubt God’s wisdom, love or reliability. The truth is that God is at work, and God is always at work. God is at work according to His purposes, not ours, and He is always at work, bringing order out of chaos. God is always at work, but we do not see Him working because He uses methods that we do not understand. He works in His own way.
We can see Habakkuk’s frank relationship with God here. Look at the questions raised by him. Why are you not giving any answer when I call?
God if you are in control why is this happening? For Habakkuk- Faith in God is one side and experience of life is on the other side. What is happening around us? Read the newspapers, Listen to the TV news and scan through other social media. You can understand injustice, violence, in equality, moral down going of the society and so on. Integrity in personal and public lives has reached the bottom. Moral and spiritual standards are also on the decline. Getting things done by hook or crook has become the fashion of the day. When we see all these, as Christians what are we doing? Are we praying? The circumstances of life sometimes appear to contradict God’s revelation concerning His power and purposes. Habakkuk struggles in his faith when he sees men deliberately violate God’s law and distort justice at every level, without fear of divine intervention. He wants to know why God allows this growing wickedness to go unpunished.
As the answer to his first complaint, when God reveals His intention to use Babylon as His rod of judgment, Habakkuk is even more troubled, because that nation is even more corrupt than Judah. So, Habakkuk complained again. But Habakkuk waited to see what answer God would give to his second complaint. We do not know how long he had to wait. But God did reply and his answer is perhaps the best explanation we have of God’s attitude towards evil. God’s answer satisfies Habakkuk. God pointed out two things to Habakkuk. First, the violent, proud Babylonians would be paid back with the very weapon they had used on others. The second was God’s Character. He may be silent for a time but not for ever.
How many of you and me get discouraged and disappointed by seeing the happenings around us and by seeing that the Lord is silent about what is happening. Do not be discouraged, our Lord is reminding us the righteous will live by faith. What is faith? Faith believes that God will not make a mistake. The God of the universe has a plan for our lives and He is busy enacting it. But it is not easy to discern. It is often above and beyond us. We can only see what is immediately in front of us. But God is high above us and sees all of life at one glance. He sees both the beginning and the end of things. While the crisis is occurring, we are unaware of why we are going through a tragedy. Only after we reflect does it strike us that God was in it all along. For that reason, we trust in the ways of God, believing that God will not make a mistake. Faith believes that God is too kind to be cruel. The apostle Paul spoke of the kindness of God and His amazing grace when he wrote “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. Faith believes that God always knows best and does best in His time. When we try to impose our plan of action on God, we get in to trouble. We might be familiar with this illustration: a man found a cocoon on a tree in his yard. He was attracted by it and decided to watch it change. One day, he saw a tiny butterfly inside the delicate covering and he watched it struggling, trying its best to break out of its captivity. Finally, the man became so frustrated that he decided to use a razor blade to make a tiny slit in the side of the cocoon, in order to free the struggling butterfly. Soon afterward, the butterfly was free, but it could not fly and finally died prematurely. There are times of trials, when we want to short cut the maturation process. We want to use shortcuts while God wants to prepare us for a great work or a new phase of life. Like the butterfly, it is only in struggles that we obtain strength. Faith also believes that God is in control and therefore we can rest easily. Faith believes that when we cannot trace the hand of God, we must trust the heart of God. That is why we can see though Habakkuk begins by questioning God, he concludes his book with a psalm of praise. Then Habakkuk wrote his great affirmation of faith in chapter 3:17-19 “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 there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will triumph in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!” He now acknowledges God’s wisdom in the coming invasion of Judah although it terrifies him and he will trust the Lord. God’s creative and redemptive work in the past gives the prophet confidence in the divine purposes and hope at a time when he would otherwise despair. Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my saviour.
So, what are we waiting for? We are waiting for God. Faith is a willingness to trust that God knows best and will bring our lives and the world to a good completion. And here this morning, waiting for God, wondering together, “How long, O Lord?” When we come to Habakkuk chapter 3, the whole tone of the book changes. We move from confusion to clarity and from fear to faith. Here is the key observation on which the whole book turns: Nothing has changed on the outside but Habakkuk has changed on the inside. We find a lot of bad news in Habakkuk chapters 1&2 but Habakkuk chapter 3 is full of good news. The book ends on a note of hope and praise. Too many Christians have a God of the good times. They serve God, love Him and praise Him when everything is going well. But what will you and I do when hard times come? Sometimes the fig tree does not bud. Sometimes there are no grapes on the vine. Sometimes the olive crop fails. Sometimes the fields produce no food. Sometimes there are no sheep in the pen. Sometimes there are no cattle in the stalls. What do we do then? You can get angry with God; you can give up on God altogether or you can choose to believe in God anyway. Often, we mistake faith and our feelings. Faith is not about my feelings. Faith chooses to believe when it would not be easier to believe.
Those who have faith in the midst of problem will be counted as righteous. Habakkuk did not explain why God allows evil. But he did affirm that God has not lost control. Evil is moving toward its own logical end of self-destruction and God’s glory will someday fill the earth. So, a believer can find hope and joy through faith in God regardless of circumstances. If God seems far away from you, even though you are trusting Him and trying to do His will, do not despair. Talk to Him about it and keep doing what you know is right. The light will break through. And when it does, you will be immeasurably blessed. God is here for you too. He will never leave you. He cares too much for you. Even if the night is dark and the storm is raging, know that God is there. Even when we can’t see the hand of God, we can trust the heart of God. Even if you don’t understand why, trust Him because we know that He knows why. Even if you wonder how long, trust Him because He knows the time and the length of suffering. Trust Him because He is God.