What is life without death? Does not death make life richer and fuller? Are not heroes more because there are villains? Or love more breathtaking because of hate? Paradise ultimately fulfilling because of suffering?
In reading Habakkuk, one might question God’s goodness and justice, or doubt that God hears our prayers. The natural tendency is to say, ‘that’s not fair’ or ‘God doesn’t seem to care.’ However, a life free from trials, suffering, and injustice is never promised in the Bible.
Trials and suffering are the result of our broken world. None of us are immune. And while we may experience persecution for our beliefs, the trials and sorrow of life happens to all people, regardless of their faith. For Christians, we know that our citizenship is in heaven and the suffering we experience on earth is temporary.
"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. I Peter 1:6-7
However, we also are reminded that suffering can be transformed; through trials and sorrow the works of God will be revealed to the world. Not only is God aware of the injustice, but He is orchestrating good out of the unfortunate, hard circumstances.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:20
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. "Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him." John 9:1-3
The Bible is a book of themes: love, redemption, old vs. new, etc. One of the common themes that also quickly becomes evident is that God is present in human tragedy, transforming our suffering into His greatest victories.
- Human tragedy: Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery; he was a servant for at least 10 years and then was unjustly imprisoned for at least 2 years. Transformed victory: Joseph delivers Egypt (and ultimately his family) from famine and Pharaoh makes him second in command of the nation.
- Human tragedy: Pharaoh ordered the death of all infant Israelite males because he feared an uprising. Transformed victory: God saved a baby – Moses. That one child led God’s people from Egypt to the Promised Land, redeeming tens of thousands of people in Moses’ generation alone.
- Human tragedy: Satan destroyed all that Job loved in this life. Transformed victory: God restored Job and blessed him more abundantly.
- Human tragedy: Stephen was stoned to death because of the gospel message. Transformed victory: Paul, the man who oversaw Stephen’s sentencing, was transformed into Jesus’ servant and ministered to the early churches, faithfully serving Jesus until his death.
The cycle of God transforming human tragedy into victory continues to a climax where God sends His only Son to suffer and die on a cross for the sins of hateful rebels (you and me); the beautiful unity of the Trinity was broken when God’s judgment poured out on Jesus. Our sin is the greatest human tragedy. Yet, God used the sin of man (Israel’s rejection of the Messiah; Judas’ betrayal; crowd crying for Christ’s death) for His greatest victory: Christ’s resurrection. Jesus conquered death and now lives as our Lord, Mediator, and Savior.
As we read Habakkuk, let us keep a Christ-centric perspective. Habakkuk had a unique experience in his time, speaking openly with the Holy God and relying on the promise of the Messiah to come. We as Christians have this same privilege: going to our Lord in prayer and relying on the promise of Christ’s return.
When you read Habakkuk’s words, all of which are inspired by God, let it become your own prayer and plea. We all have seasons in life where we stand in front of the Lord and say “Why? Why are You doing this? What are you doing?” However, not many of us can respond to the Lord’s answer by saying “Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord.” This is our challenge: to rest in the accomplishment of Christ for everything.
If you are like me when you first started reading this prophetic book you probably asked questions like “what is the point of this book?” or maybe you didn’t ask a question at all and you just felt lost and couldn’t see it apply to your life or relationship with God.
During our time in Habakkuk, my desire is that the Lord will reveal the beauty of this small book and when you read it again at the end of this study, you will be amazed at its power and impact.
- Take a moment and write down questions, or first impressions. When we are done this journey, compare what you wrote today with what you think at the end.
- Can you find the “human tragedy” and “transformed victory” in Habakkuk’s story yet?
Habakkuk: A Journey of Suffering © by Rachael McMullen