My prayers lately have been increasingly filled with intercession on behalf of many who are enduring illness, grief, uncertainty, and trials of many kinds. And as I look around at our world and the rampant chaos and suffering, I, like the prophet Habakkuk, cry out to God: “How can a holy and just God allow this suffering? How can you let the wicked prevail and let good people suffer?” This morning, God answered me by taking me on a tour through Habakkuk, Colossians, and Second Peter. In the words of Scripture, God answered my question. “Wait for it…”
God reminded me, as he reminded Habakkuk, that just because I can’t understand why God works the way he does, doesn’t mean I can’t trust God.
And just because God doesn’t work according to my time table, doesn’t mean he isn’t working.
Over and over through the history of God’s interaction with his Creation, he proved his ways and timing are good and just; that in all things he is working to restore and redeem. In all things, and using the most unlikely and even unseemly people and circumstances, God always fulfills his promises and reveals himself to be holy and just.
So when we struggle and face unfair suffering, we can call out to him and he will reassure us of his faithfulness, goodness, and justness.
When we can’t count on anyone or anything else, we can count on God to be faithful.
We Want Either; God is Both
Ironically, when we are the ones sinning and suffering we plead for mercy. But when others sin against us, in our humanness, we cry out for vengeance and swift justice. Depending on our circumstances we want God to be either merciful or just, but God is always both merciful and just.
God repeatedly warns his people not to confuse his patience with permission to sin. He shows mercy and long-suffering because he desires to see all redeemed (2 Peter 3:9). But he is just and thus all wrongdoing must be accounted for.
In fact, we know that he has poured out his wrath on sin. He poured it out on the cross.
Every sin, every injustice, every act of rebellion was met with God’s holy and just wrath poured out on Christ who bore all of humanity’s sin.
Our sin and the sin of those who sin against us were all covered by Christ’s blood.
Are You Offended by God?
Habakkuk was offended when God declared he would use a brutal, pagan people to bring his own covenant people to repentance (see Habakkuk 1-2).
Likewise, we can find it offensive to realize that the same blood that covers our sins is the blood that covers those who sin against us.
But let’s not be like the unmerciful servant who refused to forgive a small debt despite having his own massive debt forgiven (See Matthew 18:21-35).
Let us take to heart Paul’s words to remember what God has done for us:
Since you’ve been raised up to be with Christ, you must look for the things that are above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on things above, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed—and he is your life—you, too, will be revealed with him in glory.—Colossians 3:1-4
We have even more reason than Habakkuk did to trust in God. We have the Holy Spirit, the deposit that guarantees the fulfillment of God’s promise to make all things new in Christ.
And because we are filled with his Spirit, in our suffering, he will supply us with his strength to persevere. He will fill us with his Spirit so that we can join Habakkuk in declaring:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls.
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength, he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.—Habakkuk 3:17-19
We don’t have to know when and how God will fulfill his promise of making all things new. We know he will.
Peter, encouraged believers facing unimaginable hardship and persecution to persevere in their faith. He called them to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” as they waited for God to fulfill his promise to make a new heaven and a new earth free from sin, pain, injustice, and sorrow. Those ancient words are also for us.
So, I will lean into my good God and entrust to his grace and mercy those who are hurting and suffering. I will confess that I have mistaken his patience with permission and allow his discipline to restore me to his path. I will bring my confusion, sorrow, and frustration to the cross and trust God to redeem it all in his way and in his timing.
Will you join me in waiting expectantly for God?
Something to Help You Wait Expectantly
If you’re in a difficult time of waiting to see God act, I highly recommend my friend Wayne Stiles’ book, Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing. Want a sample of the rich Scriptural wisdom you will find in the pages of his book? Download the summary sheet I made listing my favorite “takeaways” or principles presented in Wayne’s book. Just click the picture or button below to get your free copy of this summary sheet.
Your turn.... What helps you trust in God’s faithfulness when you face difficult circumstances or people? You can leave a comment by clicking here.