The Bible has several stories of prophets and saints who also spent time in God’s waiting room and the book of Habakkuk is one of them.
The book of Habakkuk was written when the country of Israel had been divided in two. The North Country, Israel, had been conquered by the Babylonians, who now had their eyes on the south kingdom of Judah. Judah was ruled at that time by Jehoiakim, an evil, ungodly, rebellious king. It is in this context of war and strife outside the country, and violence, greed, and injustice within the country, that Habakkuk records his very honest conversation with God.
“How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen? “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save.” Habakkuk 1:1-3
Most of us have felt ignored or angry with God at some point in our lives. I know I certainly have. And yet there is often an unsaid principle in the Christian world that it is wrong to be angry at God and to express those feelings is nigh to blasphemy. Well, guess what? He already knows how you feel! Ps 94:11 says the “Lord knows the thoughts of man.” So who are we fooling when we are less than honest with God. Habakkuk is not afraid to spill out his innermost feelings and frustrations. He feels that God is not doing His job and there is chaos all around him.
We often want God to control and bless us with good things but not have control over our lives if it entails trials and hardships. We want 2 things which cannot exist together; God’s absolute control and life’s absolute freedom. We know that’s not possible but we still try to wrestle that control from God. Some of us are pretty stubborn and do not give up easy. Habakkuk is facing that question here. He wants God to be control; he knows that God is in control but he looks around and sees chaos. He doesn’t understand why God willfully chooses to do nothing. Then the Lord replies to Habakkuk, “Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” Habakkuk was amazed for God goes on to say that He plans to use the Babylonians to destroy Judah and it will be ruthless and quick for they will (in v. 11) “sweep through like the wind and pass on.” This puzzles Habakkuk even more and this certainly was not the answer he was looking for.
Habakkuk’s focus at the end of chapter 1 changes from the problems surrounding him to the person in control. Habakkuk does not understand what God is doing. He does not understand why God has been silent. And He demands answers. So he says in chapter 2:1:
His attitude reminds me of a toddler who crosses his arms and sticks his chin out and says “You’d better give me what I want, cause I am going to wait here until you do!” So He waits. He does not know what the answer will be or when it will be but he waits. Like Jacob who wrestled the angel and didn’t give up, Habakkuk waits on the Lord.
What are you waiting for? We will all be in God’s waiting room at sometime in our lives. Waiting for an answer, yet hearing only silence. In the waiting room we often experience the silence of God and a feeling that He has deserted us. There is no joy there when we first arrive, only sorrow, bewilderment, darkness and despair. We ask many questions yet receive no answers. We feel abandoned and alone. No one, we think, not even God, knows how we feel. We need to realize that even when God is silent and His face cannot be found, He is up to something in our lives.
Be assured that most of God’s saints have spent some time in that waiting room. You are not alone. Habakkuk was there. David was there. David writes in Psalm 13:1-3, “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the light to my eyes, or I will die.”
Darkness surrounds David. He cannot see where he is going or where life is leading him.
Job was there. Job’s intense frustration was not just the devastation that visited him but his inability to find God. He reached a point of utter despair when God’s face was hidden from him.
In Job 23:3, 8-9 he says, “If only I knew where to find God, I would go to his throne and talk with him there….. “I go east, but he is not there. I go west, but I cannot find him. I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden. I turn to the south, but I cannot find him.”
God has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Charles Lamb says we sometimes experience the “mumps and measles of the soul;” and though our life may feel out of control, our ship is still anchored to the Rock. God is still good and gracious and loving.
When Habakkuk received God’s grim news he was terrified. But he relied on his knowledge of God. Someone said, “There is grace in the unanswerable why for it leads us to the heart of faith; a patient trust in God.” Habakukk learned this principle. Hab 2:4 “The righteous will live by his faith” (cf. Rom. 1:17).
We do not know how long Habakkuk kept watch but he did receive an answer from God and chapter 3 of this discourse is a hymn of praise to God that signals the end of Habakkuk’s journey. In Chapter 1, we see Habakkuk’s anger and he questions God. In Chapter 2, he demands a answer to his question but patiently, reverently waits for God’s reply.
Then, Chapter 3 is a prayer and song of praise to the Creator of the Universe. Did Habakkuk’s circumstance changes? No. What changed was Habakkuk. He had a glimpse of God. He had come to the realization that no matter what his present afflictions, they will never outweigh the importance of his devotion and worship of God. Catherine Marshall said, “I need you and your presence in my life more than I need understanding…I trust You to give me understanding and an answer to my Whys only if and when You choose.” This is the supreme lesson to be learned in the waiting room: that His presence in our lives is more important than our comfort.
I have found that in my darkest hours, God has been silent. I have yet to understand why, but I know that in those days my faith narrows so that I focus only on Jesus. My faith seem to go backward as I cling to His promises with a baby-like faith that says, “I don’t know much about You or what You’re doing, but I know I need You. And I am unwilling to choose the alternative of facing a life without You.” I have often thought that the upheaval in my life, that the pain I was experiencing was just too costly. I wasn’t willing to pay that high of a price for spiritual growth. But how can I tell my Savior that the pain of my present trial is too costly when it cost him everything.
If you find yourself in God’s waiting room today know that you do not wait alone. God waits with you along with many wonderful saints. And God will answer your questions in His time. What was his answer to Habakkuk? “But the Lord is in His Holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.” Hab. 2:20
God is good and God is faithful and He will see you through whatever difficulty and hardship He brings into your life.
“Therefore do not lose heart. for a momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” 2 Corinthians