Life isn’t all fun like portrayed in a beer commercial. We get hit with surprises, but our surprises aren’t always fun and positive. A spouse serves divorce papers, a company makes unexpected job cuts, a doctor makes the prognosis of cancer, or a child brings home a fiancé who will surely doom their future together. Such predicaments seldom make us feel like “living in the moment” and going with it. Instead, we are hit with confusion. “Why God are you doing…?” we cry out.
Scripture is filled with men who share our confusion in the midst of events and announcements. Job, a faithful man blessed immeasurably by God, was rocked to the core when his family and fortune were destroyed. The Old Testament records Job’s and his friends’ attempts to make sense of his tragedy as they engage in debates and questions. And what about Joshua, asked to attack a city armed with nothing but a power-walking crowd of immigrants with some trumpets? Or Abraham, who was encouraged to try to have a baby with his ninety-year old wife? Or Joseph, as he was sold into slavery by his brothers? No doubt each of these men and their families were lost in the moment, unsure of what to say or do.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord in Isaiah 55:8. Intellectually, we have no problem with that statement, but emotions don’t always listen to reason. Confusion is a natural human sentiment when faced with our God’s sometimes-incomprehensible plans. So, when faced with plans or commands we don’t understand, how do we carry on? How do we have faith when we are confused by God?
Habakkuk, the eighth minor prophet in Scripture, gives us a great case study to see how to handle our confusion with God. This prophet was called to share a message from the Lord, but he also had an honest reaction to that message—a message that he found difficult and puzzling. The result is a conversation where we see both the prophet’s mind and the Divine Author’s heart, and consequently we learn a thing or two about how we have faith when we’re confused.The #ProphetHabakkuk asks 'How do we have #faith when we are confused by #God?' Click To Tweet
I believe if you read the following excerpt from my new book, co-authored with Steve Howell, titled 12 Faith Journeys of the Minor Prophets (available on our website and on Kindle and Nook), you will marvel at the similarities between the people of Israel in the Prophet Habakkuk’s time and God’s people today when asking that very same question.
We’ll begin with an introductory story, an elaborations on Scripture, an imaged scenario that the text hints at but doesn’t necessarily describe. We ask that you take this story as intended—as historical fiction to illustrate historical fact. Then we’ll dive directly into the book of Habakkuk and learn what the prophet has to teach us concerning having faith when we are confused by God.
The Patient Musician
Music drifted down from the tower, softly plucked notes quietly joining the sounds of the night. The melody mixed with cricket chirps and harmonized with croaking frogs down below in a tune that was both familiar and new. The song was an improvisation by gifted fingers, like the type enjoyed around campfires when everyone settles in to relax before bedtime. Not a focused piece, just a mindless distraction while the musician’s thoughts wandered elsewhere.
As the fire crackled and embers rode the waves of heat up from the stone wall toward the stars, Habakkuk breathed in deeply. Smoke from a fire was one of his favorite smells, and he allowed himself to enjoy it while the fire baked his ample front and the darkness cooled his back. But as he continued to play and think, his smile dissipated like the clouds of smoke travelling up and away on westerly winds.
Sitting on the ramparts, Habakkuk’s attention turned to his God. For some time now, he had been plagued with concern for his city and his country. Every day he saw injustice played out on the faces of the worshipers who came to the Temple in Jerusalem. As he played for the choir in that holy place, he watched family after family offer their sacrifices with pain, knowing that the God they worshiped had not fixed pressing issues in their lives. They bore the weight of violence, some even trying to hide fresh cuts and bruises. He saw the ruthless effect of the thugs and cheats who ruled the city, some from a street corner and some from the palace. His heart broke every time he saw such sights, and his constant prayer had been for God to step in and take action.
“How long?” he asked. Each day passed with no answer, yet Habakkuk had persisted, believing that his supplications would do some small part in getting the Lord of Hosts to act.
It was with great surprise then that one night God answered. The response had been thrilling and shocking all at once, but it had been neither the answer Habakkuk wanted, expected, nor (if he was honest) understood. It had confused him. It made no sense! He had written the message, but reluctantly. Not that he doubted. God forbid! It was just that he could not wrap his curly-haired head around the plans God gave. His question changed from “How long?” to “How can this be?”
And so, the troubled musician had come up to an overlook above the city, asking even more of his Lord. Amidst the chords and runs of his music, he prayed long and sincere prayers. He ran his fingers through his beard as he asked His God for clarification. Feeling as bold as Moses or Job, he presented his questions to Yahweh, knowing that his boldness would be rewarded, or rebuked. The reward, though, would be worth the risk. Plucking the strings and pouring out his heart, Habakkuk watched and waited in the cool, clear night.
Suddenly, beyond the crackling fire, Habakkuk saw a strange glow on the horizon. It wasn’t a gradual fade-in like the sunrise, a warming light that gives comfort. No, this one had a chilling intensity quite different from the heat of the sun or even his small blaze. Habakkuk’s calloused fingertips slipped off the strings and his instrument rattled to the stone blocks below.
This was the vision he had waited for! Habakkuk watched the supernatural scene unfold on the hills around him, showing distant lands and nations as an inaudible Voice explained their meaning. It lasted only a few minutes, or was it a few hours? As the cool brightness faded, Habakkuk was left staring at only the orange flames and radiant embers of his fire once again.
He sat there, motionless and thinking. The breeze blew, but it could not take away his excitement and confidence that God had spoken. The crickets chirped, but they could not drown out the words of prophecy still ringing in his ear. As Habakkuk picked up his instrument and absent-mindedly tuned their strings, he felt an aching burden to share the message far and wide.
And yet, he thought as he stared at the stars with a wry smile, it still didn’t make any sense.
Read what Habakkuk learned about faith in 12 Faith Journeys of the Minor Prophets!
1. Lori Rackl, “Meet Bud Light’s Ian Rappaport, Who’s Up for Whatever,” (February 2, 2014), http://voices.suntimes.com/arts-entertainment/the-daily-sizzle/meet-bud-lights-ian-rappaport-whos-up-for-whatever/.