Summary: How to keep our faith strong when life disappoints us.
I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what He will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.—Habakkuk 2:1
WHEN LIFE FAILS TO MEET EXPECTATIONS
Perhaps the hardest thing for a Christian to do is to stand on his faith in God when life is not meeting our expectation. A popular myth of Christianity is that, once we come to Jesus we’ll never have a problem. But Jesus Himself reminds us that God causes the Sun to shine on the unjust and the rain to fall on the faithful. And while we can accept that intellectually, it’s hard to live with that reality when the one in the rain is us.
It’s not hard to praise the Lord when all is going well with us, but it’s a little harder to say, “I love the Lord” when the bottom falls out of our lives. It’s not hard to sing songs of praise when all our bills are paid, but it’s a little harder to sing when we’re not sure where our next meal is coming from, or when our children are acting up, or when our spouses disappoint us, or when our bodies are racked with pain. Often, when life doesn’t meet expectations, it disrupts our relationship with God; when life doesn’t meet expectations, we’re heard asking the question, “What good does it do? What good is worship if I still have all these problems? What good is service if suffering is its constant companion, while others never who call God’s name seem to do so much better than I am doing? What good is prayer if I don’t always get what I ask for?”
The Bible is full of examples of people who broke at the point where life wasn’t meeting their expectation. Elijah ran and hid himself in a cave, and asked God to take away his life because it wasn’t meeting his expectation; Jeremiah got mad with God and said that he wasn’t going to preach anymore because life wasn’t meeting his expectation. We talk about the patience of Job, but if you check the record, the Bible says that the longer life fell short of Job’s expectation, the shorter his patience became until finally he chal-lenged God’s fairness, and said, “If only I knew where to find Him; if only I could go to His dwelling! I would state my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments.”
It’s hard sometimes to keep going when life continues to fall short of our expectation. But if Habakkuk’s story serves any purpose today, it should encourage us to stay an-chored in our faith in God when disappointment comes our way, for our faith is that He knows, He cares and He will provide a remedy to our situation if we would just patiently wait on Him.
You know, that word “wait” is interesting, because it doesn’t mean what we commonly think it means. Our common use of the word refers to a moment of stillness where we do nothing. But often, the word “wait” in the Old Testament means “to maintain an earnest expectation.” When Isaiah says, “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength”, he was really saying, “Those whose hope, those whose earnest expectation rests in the Lord shall have their strength renewed.” When David says, “Wait on the Lord and be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart”, he’s saying, “Keep your hope in the Lord and hold on in tough times, and he will fulfill your expectation.” And the advice that comes from these patriarchs of the faith is the same as we see coming from the man at the center of our text today, as he deals with a situation where life is not meeting his expectation.
Our text centers on the faith of Habakkuk at a time when life had left him extremely hurt and disappointed. Habakkuk prophesied for the Lord between 620 and 600 BC to the southern kingdom of Judah. Judah was caught in the midst of great spiritual apostasy; wickedness abounded on every hand. But while Judah was fading, Babylon—a pagan people—was prospering. Judah was on her way out, but Babylon was reaching new heights. Judah was going backward, but Babylon was progressing and expanding, and they were doing it through very aggressive and violent means. This turn of events disturbed Habakkuk. Habakkuk was a godly man who did his best to live a life that would be pleasing to God. More than that, Habakkuk was aware of the history of his people. He knew that he was of the tribe and lineage of David; he knew that the blood of Abraham ran through his veins and the veins of his people. To borrow an expression from Peter, he knew that Judah was a chosen people, a royal priesthood and a holy nation that enjoyed a unique relationship with God. Habakkuk knew that God had built a hedge around His people and had protected them from their enemies. But now things were changing. Because of spiritual wickedness, because of unrepentant sin, Israel had been swept away by the Assyrians just a century earlier. And now, the same fate was threatening Judah at the hands of Babylon—for the same reason.