(I’m taking part in the Twitter #adventbookclub, reading “Beginnings and Endings” by Maggi Dawn. Some days there will just be a simple tweet; other times a blog post for longer thoughts.)
From Elijah, in many ways one of the greatest of the prophets, to Habakkuk, one of the least known. Like Job, he struggles to understand what is happening, and asks God for guidance. Like Job, the answers he gets aren’t always clear. Much of the book is about the frustration of waiting; waiting for an uncertain future, with no clues to when things will get better, no signs that he can read.
Many of us know this frustration: those suffering from chronic illness with no indication of healing; those trying to find a job when there aren’t any; refugees longing to go home and live in peace.
And yet, this book, and the extract in “Beginnings and Endings”, contains one of the greatest statements of faith and faithfulness in the whole Bible:
“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (3:17-18, NLT)
To me this is the complete antithesis of the “prosperity gospel”, when people expect that being faithful to God will bring material blessings, that absence of these is an indication of unfaithfulness and failure. It’s probably the verse that inspired the anonymous writer during the Holocaust:
I believe in the sun
though it is late in rising.
I believe in love
though it is absent.
I believe in God
though He is silent.
It is interesting that this passage is used on the feast day of St. John of the Cross, who wrote about spiritual dryness in “The Dark Night of the Soul”. As well as times of frustration in waiting for things to get better in our lives, many people feel the absence and silence of God, often for long periods, perhaps only getting hints of God’s presence just now and then. How does our faith keep on going in these times?
Habakkuk is a challenge to all of us not to let our frustrations get us down, to keep hoping even though there is nothing to encourage that hope; and to keep praising God, even rejoicing, in these dark times.
Come, Lord Jesus, come!