When God seems silent
How long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?
It was the cry of the prophets from Moses to Malachi. It was the cry of the early church under persecution. And it is the cry of many today in the face of division, turmoil, and hardship. How long must God’s people endure before his promised return? Does God not know how we suffer?
Habakkuk asked the question to God, adding words that seem appropriate for these days, “The wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted” (Habakkuk 1:2–4).
The context for Habakkuk was an alarming change in the political structure in Judah after a long season of prosperity and revival. After the death of good King Josiah, corrupt leaders increasingly built wealth by oppressing the working classes and the poor. Social justice was nowhere to be found. Over time the political/ruling class conformed Judah to a two-faced nation: one face was the rich, powerful, and licentious; the other was most of the people who toiled under destruction, violence, strife, contention, and extreme poverty. Habakkuk looked at his people suffering and asked God, How long will I cry for help? Why do you watch injustice without acting? Why are you silent in the midst of our suffering?
God answered, “Look and see…I am doing a work…” God was active, even though Habakkuk couldn’t see his hand. By the end of the vision, Habakkuk determined to “rejoice in the Lord [and] take joy in the God…of salvation” (Habakkuk 3). Habakkuk still didn’t have a timeline, but he was assured that God’s will would be done.
It’s hard to see injustice and division, especially when it hits close to home. But Peter assures us that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness but is patient toward you, not wishing that any soul perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). It also in this passage that we are reminded that time is a human constraint; the eternal God is not bound by our notions of how time operates.
God is at work. His justice is sure, even when we don’t see his activity for the moment. We don’t have to know the details, but we can trust that all of God’s promises are “yes” in Jesus and we can say, “Amen” even in the middle of the storm (2 Corinthians 1:20).