“I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the lookout tower. I will watch to see what he will say to me and what I should reply about my complaint.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever been through a season when you asked some hard questions of God? What prompted that for you? Was it an experience of suffering? That’s a pretty common trigger. Who the object of the suffering is as well as its kind will impact the exact nature of the questioning, but suffering can cause it all the same. Maybe you were just feeling particularly reflective and your mind wandered into some deeper topics than you had considered before. Maybe a tragedy happened to you or someone you love or even just in the world generally. Whatever the reason, asking God hard questions can be an uncomfortable, awkward, and challenging thing to do. This morning, I want to talk about those times and what we do when we find ourselves in them.
Whatever it was that prompted your questions, and whatever was their exact nature, what did you do with them? I mean, you asked them of God, sure, but what then? Here’s what I mean: Did you stick around for an answer, or did you just ask them and walk away?
Often, when we ask God our hard questions (which is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, by the way), we ask them and stop. Maybe we wait for a bit for an answer, but not long. Indeed, sometimes we almost lob them at Him like hand grenades thinking we are scoring some kind of odd win against Him with our asking alone. Waiting for an answer, though, is hard. It is especially hard when He doesn’t respond as quickly or directly as we want Him to respond. In those all too common times, we ask our hard questions and then walk away without an answer, concluding that God either doesn’t care or even that He doesn’t exist. Either way, our relationship with Him is put in pretty serious jeopardy.
Here’s the truth, though: God wants our questions. He welcomes them. All of them. He wants for us to ask away from the depths of our souls and not hold anything back. We see this kind of thing happening all over the Scriptures, particularly in the Old Testament. What’s more, we see people laying their hardest, most intense and personal questions at God’s feet, and never do we see them scolded or somehow punished for it. David does this all over the Psalms. Job fairly well accuses God of causing all his misery and pleads for death, and we are told explicitly that he never sins in any of his complaints and questions. Several of the prophets ask God hard questions as well. One prophet in particular does this with an urgency and passion that eclipses all the rest. His questioning gives us a pathway to follow in our own asking that will lead us to a better place than we can reach if we try to go it alone.
This prophet was Habakkuk and his little collection of prophecy near the back of the Old Testament is perhaps my favorite book of the whole group. As a prophet, Habakkuk offers us very little actual prophecy. Instead, he looks around at a culture that is broken and has gone insane with every kind of sin he can imagine, and asks God where He is in the midst of all of this chaos and what He plans to do about it. In fact, he fairly well accuses God of just straight up not caring about the awful plight of His people. From Habakkuk 1:3: “Why do you force me to look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Oppression and violence are right in front of me. Strife is ongoing and conflict escalates. This is why the law is ineffective and justice never emerges. For the wicked restrict the righteous; therefore, justice comes out perverted.”
Have you ever felt like that? Perhaps your emotional trigger wasn’t quite as big as the moral decay of the whole nation–something I think we can understand for ourselves–but rather something much more personal than that. Maybe all of that moral decay has crystallized and taken a much more personal form for you. Instead of it being problems that are “out there,” it has struck much closer to home. And out of all of this you are asking hard questions that have a bit more of an edge of accusation to them than you might have put on them if you were thinking more clearly. Habakkuk understands. And his struggles with God made into the Bible.
Habakkuk got what we so often don’t feel like we get in his questions, though. He actually got a response from God. The trouble is, God’s response made things even worse. That’s the thing about asking God our hard questions. You see, God knows better than we do. A lot better. He can see the big picture of which our lives are barely a piece. He understands all the whys and hows. The ins and outs of every situation are clear to Him. More than even that, He knows what would and could happen if things were to go one way or another. He’s got plans to deal with it all justly and at the right time. Those ways and times may not coincide with what we want, but because He is fundamentally good, so will His plans for dealing with it all be. Because of this, getting an answer from God may not be something we really want to receive. It certainly didn’t make Habakkuk’s plight any better.
But here again, Habakkuk gives us a model to follow in his questioning. When God’s answer seems to make everything even worse, what would you have done if you were in his shoes? You probably would have thrown up your hands and walked away with the firm conclusion in mind that God is unjust and unloving. Yet that is not what Habakkuk does at all. He is firmly rooted in his understanding and belief in who God is and so instead of giving up, he doubles down on his questions. He asks them again, but with this new revelation in mind. How can you be just and good, God, when things happened like this and that’s your plan for dealing with them?
After asking all of his questions, Habakkuk lands where we started here. “I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the lookout tower. I will watch to see what he will say to me and what I should reply about my complaint.”
So, what is this? Well, he’s not talking about doing some kind of guard duty for his town. He’s talking about waiting for God’s reply. He’s been given this bewildering response from God to his hard questions about things he was already wrestling with and so he’s asked even more questions. But now, instead of walking away in frustration, Habakkuk is going to wait. He is going to wait like a guard on a wall. And how is that? He is going to wait with intentionality and constant awareness. He’s going to be scanning the horizons of his relationship with God constantly, watching carefully so he is alerted the moment something starts coming his way. He is going to keep going back to God again and again and again with his challenges until he is satisfied with the response he gets. And he’ll do that for as long as it takes to get the resolution he is seeking.
That, my friends, is our pattern to follow. When you have experienced a hard season and are asking God hard questions out of it, don’t ask and walk away. Ask and keep asking and keep seeking until you are satisfied with His response. You may not reach this point very quickly. It may take what seems and feels like forever to get to it. And the response that finally leaves you satisfied may not be at all what you thought it would be when you started asking. That’s certainly what Habakkuk experienced. But if you will keep on asking and seeking Him, refusing to turn away, but pursuing Him all the more no matter how hard it gets, He will bring you to a place of satisfaction and peace. It won’t be on your time. It’ll be on His. But when you pursue Him with all of your heart, you will eventually find Him. Along the way, don’t miss the work He does in you during the waiting. That may be some of the most important work He does.
And there’s one more thing here: In order for this process to be a fruitful one, you must be firmly rooted in an accurate understanding of God’s character. If you don’t get His character right, you’re not going to get anything else right. God is good and just. He is holy and loving. He punishes sin and does not let us escape the consequences of our choices, but He is merciful and compassionate. He comforts the hurting and restores the broken. He has a plan that will be for the good of all those who are willing to entrust themselves to Him through His Son. The journey to that point may not be smooth, but the ending will be good because He is good. If you start pursuing Him from that foundation, you will always eventually find what you are seeking. May you journey well and find the treasure that is worth your everything.