We all know how devastating difficult times can be for us and our families. Today we are facing a melt down of gigantic proportions. Our nation faces a multi-trillion dollar loss and the lack of integrity of many of our institutions is the culprit. A culprit is a person or other agent guilty of or responsible for an offense or fault. What are God’s people to do in the difficult times?
We must recognize evil in our lives. It is all around us in our community, state, and nation. God’s people in the Bible also faced many difficult circumstances. One such person was the prophet Habakkuk. He was a prophet about 605 B.C. in the Southern Kingdom of Judah and was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah. The book of Habakkuk differs from other books of prophecy in one special aspect. Instead of taking Jehovah's message directly to the people, he takes the complaint of the people to Jehovah, representing them in the complaint. The people of Judah were caught up in moral decay.
The prophet goes to God and asks difficult questions. Habakkuk’s spirit is deeply troubled. How could God permit such suffering among his people? D. Stewart Briscoe writes about Habakkuk’s concerns, "Why is evil and suffering rampant in our world? Goodness and justice seem to fail! How is it, God, that you are so against wrong but you go on tolerating wrong? God, is what you are doing fair? Is this honestly the moral, ethical thing to do?" Job, Jeremiah, and other prophets also had the same concerns about difficult times for God’s people.
From a Biblical perspective difficult times happen because of evil in the world. When God’s people think through the age-old problem of evil and seek to relate the grim facts of history to a God of justice and power who holds all in His control, they find themselves drawn to Habakkuk. We, like Habakkuk, are honest seekers of the truth of evil. He dared to address God as we should dare to address God about our difficult times.
Why Evil Exists
Evil exists because of the selfish condition of people’s hearts and rebellion against God. That is to say, since Adam and Eve sin exists. The Old Testament definition of sin is “to miss the mark,” like shooting at a target. Jesus summed up “hitting the mark” when he summed up the 613 laws of the Old Testament into 2 laws. He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind…Love your neighbor as yourself,” Matthew 22:37. If everyone did that evil in the world would be greatly decreased. Sin is missing the mark and wanting to be God. We want to do our own thing and ignore what God desires.
Disease, hunger, war, etc. are the result of evil. There are many similarities between Judah and our nation. Wickedness abounds and that evil is because of the human condition called sin. I John 1:8-10 reads, “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But, if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Therefore, if humans could limit their sins of pride and selfishness evil would be greatly diminished. Our human condition wants us to blame God or others for our shortcomings. Habakkuk 1:1-3, “How long O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence,’ but you do not save. Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and conflict abounds.”
God tells Habakkuk that he is raising up the Babylonians to devour Judah, even thought the Babylonians are evil. Habakkuk still insists that his complaints are just and in all his honesty tells God about the evil. Finally, in Habakkuk 3 the prophet decides to pray and in verses 17-19 he states what the solution to the problem is, “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, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”
Pray and Rejoice
That, dear friends, is one of the things we must do in difficult times. We must rejoice in the Lord, anyway. As Habakkuk prayed and acknowledged God we can do the same. Here is what you should pray right now:
Lord God, I come to you in Jesus’ name. I do not know you like I should, but I want to. I believe your Word is true and I want peace in my life. I repent for my hard heart and selfish thoughts and deeds. I really want to be free from my sin and worry. I know only you can change my heart and I come to you for help. Please receive me as your child, because you have only children and no grandchildren. I want to do your will. I want to experience your purpose for my life and I want eternal life the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen.
Your future is a blank sheet of paper and you are free to paint every day as you wish. Concentrate on the things in life you are grateful for, because today is a new day. You are much more than just your problems. Betty Miller wrote, “…if millionaires can be depressed and POWs can be cheerful, you have enough power to direct your heart and soul to Jesus.
So, if you are in difficult times, “Rejoice in the Lord, anyway.” God loves you whether you feel it or not. You are his creation and God wants you to be with him for eternity.
By God’s Grace,
Rev. Dr. Bobby W. Leggett
Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church of Blanco