How Long? Why?
It is tempting to assume we are far removed from the circumstances described in the Old Testament. But as we read Habakkuk’s complaint in these verses we can recognize that although we’re distanced chronologically and geographically, we are not so far from the situation in which he found himself.
Habakkuk described problems with people within God’s people. They had strayed from what God had designed for them, and there was no end in sight. Worse, God apparently wasn’t intervening. The issue as Habakkuk viewed it was twofold: God’s timing (How long will You tolerate wrong?) and God’s tolerance (Why do You tolerate it?). These questions can also be found on the lips of many thoughtful believers today as they look at the church: “How long will this go on? Why is it that the good, moral, all-powerful God whom we serve tolerates spiritual and moral dry rot among those who profess to be His followers?”
Have you ever wrestled with these questions? You are not alone; this is not a new issue. God’s faithful people have wrestled with it throughout history. Here are two observations that will be beneficial to us as we confront the “How longs” of our lives.
First, we can be thankful that God is not so unkind as to answer our prayers in our timeframe. God’s delays are always purposeful. His perspective is far more comprehensive than we could ever imagine. He may delay so that He can deal with our selfishness or an area of disobedience in our lives, to teach us how to trust Him or to save us from ourselves. This is one reason why the Bible frequently calls us to wait upon the Lord. Our disappointments, failures, and confusions can be brought under the all-embracing security of God’s eternal purpose.
Second, we can follow the prophet’s example in calling on God for help. Habakkuk took his complaint to the only place where we ought to take ours: to the Lord. He recognized what the psalmist says: “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). The Psalms are full of godly believers bringing their confusion and questions to God. This gives us permission to do the same. He understands when we cry out “How long?” and “Why?” His ultimate answer is given to us in Jesus and His triumph. He loves to bring the glimmers of dawn after the darkest of nights. So, as you look at your own heart or life, or at the church, and are moved to ask, “O Lord, how long shall I cry?” you can find solace in words such as these:
God is still on the throne,
And He will remember His own;
Tho’ trials may press us and burdens distress us,
He never will leave us alone.
My Help Comes from the Lord
A Song of Ascents.
1I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
3He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
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