How Long, O Lord?
How long is my marriage going to be like this? I’ve been praying about it for so long.
How long am I going to be in and out of hospitals? I’m so tired of being sick.
How long am I going to be single? I really thought my last boyfriend was “The One”.
We all know what it is like to struggle with challenging situations. We do everything we can on our part, all while imploring God’s help through prayer and fasting. We watch and wait for some sign of divine intervention and sometimes feel stuck, frustrated, and even angry at God when we do not get one. As a result, we start to believe that God has abandoned us, which then leads us to wallow in our misery.
God knew we would sometimes feel this way, which is one of the reasons I believe He blessed us with the prophet Habakkuk. Habakkuk knew the feeling of being stuck and frustrated all too well, and he also provided us with a perfect model for how to handle our times of frustration. By examining the life of Habakkuk, we can allow our minds to be washed clean and purified by the Word of God.
Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27 NAB)
Are you frustrated with God? Tell Him exactly how you feel.
Habakkuk did so by crying out,
“How long, O Lord? I cry for help, but you do not listen!
I cry out to you, “Violence”, but you do not intervene.
Why do you let me see ruin; Why must I look at misery?
Destruction and violence are before me;
There is strife, and clamorous discord,” (Habakkuk 1:2-3, NAB).
We sometimes focus so much on having reverence for God that we try to be “polite” by hiding our true feelings. This is not scriptural. Habakkuk, as well as all of the Psalmists, were fully honest with God in regard to how they felt. We need to remember that God sees into our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7) and discerns our thoughts (Psalm 139:2). Although He already knows what lies within our hearts, God still wants us to tell Him exactly how we feel. Opening up to God is very similar to confiding in a close friend.
Habakkuk teaches us the importance of not sugarcoating our feelings by demonstrating true humility toward the Father. It is through Habakkuk’s transparency with God that we learn it is okay to complain to Him. The Lord desires that we be fully honest with Him at all times. This is because He is with us and for us. God truly loves us and wants us to trust Him enough to bare our burdened hearts to His listening ears.
Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7 NAB)
Wait in expectation and believe that God hears you when you speak to Him and will tend to your needs as He sees fit.
I will stand at my guard post, and station myself upon the rampart,
And keep watch to see what he will say to me,
And what answer he will give to my complaint (Habakkuk 2:1 NAB)
Habakkuk had complete confidence in God and trusted that He would acknowledge and respond to his complaint.
God’s response to Habakkuk: Keep waiting and be patient.
Write down the vision, clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily,
For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint,
If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.
The rash man has no integrity; but the just man, because of his faith, shall live. (Habakkuk 2:2-4 NAB)
If you have discerned that God has placed a desire in your heart, keep the vision alive (the dream career, the beautiful family, the healthy body, etc.). Believe in your heart that God will fulfill it beautifully and you will not be disappointed with how He allows it to unfold. Know that He works all all things together for your good (Romans 8:28).
As you trust in God’s perfect timing, do not be rash by trying to rush the fulfillment of your vision. For example, if you are single, rash behavior may entail rushing into a relationship with the first guy who comes along without getting to know him well. If you are unemployed, rash behavior may entail accepting the first job you are offered even though you have a really bad feeling about it. If you are sick, rash behavior might possibly involve trying some experimental drug that your doctor told you to avoid. Do not allow this behavior to stem from your waves of impatience . It may seem that God is taking a long time to answer your prayers, “but do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day,” (2 Peter 3: 8, NAB). God's timing is perfect. Keep waiting, and be patient.
As you go through your seasons of waiting, rejoice in the Lord.
The book of Habakkuk ends with Habakkuk joyfully declaring:
“For though the fig tree blossom not, nor fruit be on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive fail, and the terraces produce no nourishment,
Though the flocks disappear from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
Yet will I rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God.
God the Lord is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of hinds,
And enables me to go upon the heights,” (Habakkuk 3: 17-19 NAB).
I would now like to pause and reflect on this very scene that Habakkuk has described. Habakkuk is describing abject poverty and suffering. Despite his circumstances, however, Habakkuk chose to rejoice in the Lord. Imagine Habakkuk joyfully reading God's Word and praising God for His enduring love. Picture Habakkuk singing songs of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, quite possibly drowning out the sounds of his grumbling belly and the complaints of those around him. Envision Habakkuk promising his complete devotion to God and declaring his full confidence in his Father.
May we follow Habakkuk’s wonderful life example and choose to always rejoice in the Lord, no matter what our circumstances are or how long we have been waiting for a vision to be fulfilled. Instead of grumbling and worrying, may we rejoice in the Lord through praise and speaking of His tender mercies. May we also devote time to a life of prayer and meditation on the Word as we seek the tools needed in order to teach our hearts to fully love.
Choose to testify to God's everlasting love by pouring out kindness, compassion and generosity to others. Make it your goal to reach a point of declaration that says to the Lord, “You have put more joy in my heart then they have when their grain and wine abound,” (Psalm 4:7, NAB). If we do choose to rejoice as scripture exhorts us to, Christ’s perfect peace will guard our hearts and minds.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:4 -7 NAB)