What a crazy time it is!
We have a rapidly spreading virus, plunging stock markets, entire countries locking down, people hoarding toilet paper, arguments in shopping aisles, businesses closing down, people being laid off … and no live sport, God forbid! Who would have thought our world would shut down like this. It’s like an apocalpyse ‘end of the world’ movie. It feels worse than 9/11, the GFC, and the Asian tsunami all in one. And it only seems to be getting worse by the hour. Many people here in Australia are still recovering from the terrible bushfires. People are freaking out. There is a LOT of fear and anxiety … and understandably so.
In one of the climactic scenes of The Lord of the Rings, the young hobbit, Frodo, laments the world he sees around him with all the tragedy and darkness that has befallen him. Looking at the difficulty in continuing on the path laid out before him, Frodo mourns, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” Gandalf the Grey, ever his wise mentor, consoles him with these words: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
Right now, we will need to learn to live with the times given to us – turbulent times. They’re very different. It is more complex, more chaotic, and more demanding.
Let’s glean a few lessons from a minor prophet who was a person of great faith during turbulent times in his generation. Who is it? It is Habakkuk, an ancient Israelite prophet.
Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah and a person of strong faith. He lived in Judah near the end of Josiah’s reign (640-609 BC) around the time of the Babylonian invasion. He lived in a time of violent political upheaval, at a national and international level. King Josiah had brought hope with his reform but then his sudden death and the reign of his wicked son had quickly squashed any emerging hope. His book (found by turning left at the Gospel of Matthew and going 5 books back into the Old Testament) is unique in that is contains no oracle or prophetic message to the nation of Israel. Instead, it is a dialogue or conversation (an “oracle” = burden) between the prophet and God that then becomes a public encouragement to people.
The dilemma was Habakukk’s struggle to deal with unanswered prayer and prolonged suffering. Violence and injustice were all around and it seemed like God was doing nothing about it (1:1-4). God answers and the underlying message is that God is in full control. What is taking place happening is not by accident or chance. He rules in the affairs of the world. Habakkuk learns to see God at work in all that is happening (1:5-11). Habakkuk wants to know WHY his world is in such a terrible place (1:3, 13). God informs Habakkuk that the “just shall live by faith” (2:1-6a) during times such as these. This powerful declaration is repeated three times in the New Testament.
Habakkuk believed that God is a good God. No, that doesn’t mean we won’t experience times of suffering and pain. No, that doesn’t mean life will always be easy. Things may get worse before they get better. He often works in large brush strokes throughout history and there are often times of delay. But, yes we can trust God. He has a much bigger perspective from which he is working. He is sovereign. He is in control, working all things together according to his plan and our ultimate good (Romans 8:28). During turbulent times, we need to strengthen our trust and our faith in God. We must not allow ourselves to be ruled by fear or worry. We are called to be strong in faith. That doesn’t mean we won’t face or feel worry or fear. Remember, courage is not the absence of fear but the conquering of fear.