LICC – word for the week – wrestling with God
How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to
you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? There is strife and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralysed, and justice never prevails. Habakkuk 1:1-4
Habakkuk was inspired to write a psalm. (Not all the psalms in the Old Testament are in the book of psalms.) His praise psalm of deep faith and trust in the Lord God forms the third and final chapter of the ‘oracle’ he received. But chapters one and two show us how he came to write it through an honest dialogue with God, asking the questions he wanted sorted before hecommitted himself to true and trusting worship.
His psalm, his prayer, came from an active, on-going debate in which he tried to come to terms with what he knew of God’s character and sovereignty – and the state of the world around him. He faced the enormity of disintegrating societies, caused, perhaps in part by natural calamities, drought, famine, hurricane and earthquake, but also made worse by human failure and wickedness, inefficiency and apathy. Habakkuk echoed the personal despair felt by some of the psalmists – ‘Will you forget me for ever?’ (Psalm 13:1) – and the outrage of the prophets at the injustice and discrimination meted out to the poor by the rich and powerful within thecovenant people of God.
Some of us are tempted to retreat into a spiritual comfort zone and to turn our backs on unpleasant realities, so that ‘the things of earth grow strangely dim’. When questioned, we are sometimes driven to produce glib responses about God’s timing, God’s love and God’s judgment instead of facing up to what can happen to faith and trust in the midst of suffering and gross injustice. But Habakkuk shows us that a passionate debate – a cry
of protest and complaint – is also part of a legitimate life of prayer. We should not be ‘otherworldly’ when we pray, for we are deeply embedded in this world and need to carry the indignation and confusion of that involvement to the Lord. How could it be otherwise? Jesus, in the midst of bloody and noisy injustice, also cried out ‘Must I call for help, but you do not listen?’- but in the words of another psalm.