Doubting God: Habakkuk 1:1-11
By Erik Bennett, January 22, 2017
Our memories are scarred by the tragic and evil events of the last several years. We mourn over natural disasters that devastate regions of the world and leave behind enormous human suffering. We are shocked and appalled as people mercilessly attack and kill others. Racial tensions, attacks on law enforcement, and ugly political turmoil remind us of the broken, fallen world in which we live.
With all the tragedy and evil we witness, it is easy to become disillusioned and disheartened. If we are honest, these events are difficult to understand and hard on our faith. Evil and suffering often cause people to blame God or become bitter and cynical toward Him. People cry out to God for an explanation, but at times God seems to answer with silence.
When the evil in the world overwhelms me or when I struggle to make sense of events of my life, I am drawn to the book of Habakkuk. The prophet Habakkuk was frustrated and confused when he saw evil and violence prevailing. He questioned God, doubted God’s plan, and called on God to uphold the righteousness and justice promised in the covenant. Remarkably, God answered Habakkuk’s complaints in a manner that transformed Habakkuk and renewed his faith.
We can learn valuable lessons of faith through the book of Habakkuk. Our faith, like Habakkuk’s, can be renewed and made stronger through knowing God more and seeing His glory. However, Habakkuk’s journey of faith was difficult and it started in a place a doubt. This post covers Habakkuk’s first complaint and God’s amazing answer.
Habakkuk’s First Complaint
How Long? (v. 2)
The prophet began his first complaint against God by asking the question, “How long?” How long will God ignore Habakkuk’s cry for help? How long will God allow violence and evil to reign? From the prophet’s perspective, God should have already answered his prayers. If it were up to the prophet, the evil in Judah would have been judged and justice enforced. Habakkuk needed God’s help, and God seemed distant and uninterested.
If we are honest, Habakkuk’s complaint is often our complaint. We have great fears and doubts when our lives don’t make sense. We need God’s help, and we cry out to Him in our distress. Sometimes, it is easy to wonder if God is paying attention. Habakkuk speaks for all of us when he desired God to listen and pay attention to him when he cried out for help.
Why? (vv. 3-4)
Habakkuk’s complaint continued with his second question, “Why?” Why did God force Habakkuk to watch evil increase in Judah? Why did God “Idly look at wrong?” Justice was perverted, the law was “paralyzed,” and the wicked were winning. Habakkuk did not understand God’s plan, and he struggled to see how a holy God could allow evil to win.
Habakkuk’s complaint was remarkably honesty. He did not pretend to have all the answers, nor did he try to mask his frustrations. He could not make sense of what he experienced in his life, and he longed for greater understanding. The prophet was not being rebellious or disobedient; he had real doubts and he wanted to know how God was going to resolve the situation.
One of the great lessons of Habakkuk is that when we struggle with faith it is important to be honest with God. I believe God desires that we share our fears, frustrations, and doubts with Him. As a parent, I want my children to tell me about their fears, and I want them to ask questions when they don’t understand. When my children are honest, I can teach them, reassure them, and help them grow and mature through the struggles they face. God, like an earthly parent, welcomes honest questions, fears, and doubts from His children because He knows that we need to grow and mature in our faith.
Watch and Be Amazed (vv. 5-11)
God did not reprimand Habakkuk for his complaint; instead, He reassured Habakkuk that He had everything under control. God tells Habakkuk in verse 5:
Look among the nations, and see;
wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
that you would not believe if told. (ESV)
God’s plan for confronting evil in Judah was going to astound and amaze Habakkuk. God planned to raise up the Chaldeans (i.e. Babylonians) and they were going to be instruments of God’s Judgment on Judah (Hab. 1:6-11).
God’s answer to Habakkuk’s complaint showed that God was neither indifferent nor insensitive to Habakkuk’s concerns. God saw the sin of Judah, and He had a righteous solution. God’s plan was much bigger and grander than Habakkuk could have ever imagined, and Habakkuk needed to learn to trust God.
Trusting God is not always easy, and there are times when we, like Habakkuk, doubt God. When we are struggling with trusting God, it is helpful to remember Habakkuk’s first complaint and the importance of honestly sharing our doubts and fears with God. Habakkuk did not pretend he had all the answers, and neither should we.
The most vital lesson learned from Habakkuk’s first complaint is that God has an amazing, righteous plan. When our world seems overrun with wickedness, God remains in control. When nothing in our lives makes sense, God asks us to take His hand and trust Him to guide us through treacherous paths.
Habakkuk’s journey of faith was difficult, and it started in a place a doubt. After his first complaint, his doubt continued as he struggled to accept God’s plan (1:12-2:1). Through the rest of Habakkuk’s complaints and God’s amazing answers, we will find the solution to our struggles of faith is God. Habakkuk teaches us that doubt is transformed to faith by knowing God more and seeing Him in His glory.