How Long Will Evil Reign?
My kids know our safety rules. We hold hands while walking, stay close to the cart, and lock our home. They don’t understand the real reasons why. Stories of sex slaves, mass shootings, and home invasions are ones they will not yet hear. But I do.
A world awaits them, where powerful men and women might use their power to assault and take their innocence. A world where murders go unpunished, and justice is not felt by all. Where lies drip off the tongues of leaders like honey and hypocrisy seems to be at every corner.
I see this world now, and I am tired. The stories seem relentless, and some days evil seems too strong. Lord, where are you? How can you let this happen?
I see this world now, and I am tired. Lord, where are you?
Buried in the Old Testament is the tiny little book of Habakkuk which may have more to say to our days than we might expect. It brought me refreshment and hope. Habakkuk was written during a time of great disobedience in Israel. King Jehoikim, king of Judah, followed his disobedient fathers and “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” (2 Kings 23:37). Destruction and violence prevailed among God’s people (Hab. 1:3), justice did not exist (1:4), and the wicked ruled over the righteous. In three short chapters a conversation between God and prophet takes place that can speak to us as well. I found four key things to remember when I start to get overwhelmed and ask why:
Remember to Pray
I used to believe that I shouldn’t ask too many questions of God. Maybe I was afraid it would show a lack of faith, maybe it would show I didn’t know enough, that I wasn’t “Christian-enough”. Yet, Habakkuk opens with a complaint to God. A worn-out man pleads with Him and asks “why do you idly look at wrong?” (1:3). Even after receiving God’s answer, Habakkuk again cries, “why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” (1:13). Throughout the pages of the Bible is a long list of grief-filled prayers. Look to the Psalmists, David, Job, Jeremiah, even Jesus. When the weight of evil starts to come, we must not be afraid to speak to our Father. Especially when we do not understand what he is doing. He will not shrink back and his Spirit will not be defeated by our sincere laments. So talk to him, plead with him, ask him your hard questions.
Remember God is working
God responds to Habakkuk by saying, “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” (1:5). Oftentimes my heart gets discouraged by the evil around me. I get so fixed on the hypocrisy, the greed, the sin that I start to forget the ways God is working. Isaiah tells us his word does not return void, but it accomplishes its purpose. His Word is living and active, and it is working in churches across the globe, in communities, in families, and in the hearts of individuals. This thought offers much encouragement, but it also comes with a warning. The work that God is speaking of in this case is not of revival or blessings, but He is raising up Babylon to completely ransack the Israelites in judgement. We must be sure to remember God is working, but again remind ourselves that “your ways are not our ways” when the answer is not as we hoped.
Remember who God is
Now Habakkuk has heard that God plans to bring judgement on Israel by giving even more power to another vile and evil nation- the Chaldeans (Babylon). God reminds him that all evil will soon be punished, and Habakkuk offers a final prayer. In chapter 3 he recounts who God is, describing His character and historic acts. It is here where he starts to shift his focus from anger and lament to praise and assurance. We too, need to be reminded of who our God is. Though our circumstances are uncertain, we know the character of our God is certain. His mercy, his love, his goodness, and yes- even his justice is unchanging, and that is what we can rest in.
Remember to wait faithfully.
God tells Habakkuk punishment will eventually come for Babylon as well- “if it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come” (2:3). All of the rebellious, be they in Israel or Babylon will be dealt with, but “the righteous shall live by his faith.” (2:4). When it comes down to it, we are all waiting. We are waiting for evil to be vanquished. We are waiting through the consequences of someone else’s sin and sometimes our own sin. Yet God tells us to remain faithful.
We live by faith as we continue to speak, plead, and pray to the sovereign God over this world. We live by faith as we allow God to use us in our families, our churches, our communities. By living each of our days in the hope that Christ gave us on the cross. We live by faith trusting our God is who He says He is, and his character is certain. Then, we too can shift our focus and echo Habakkuk’s final words,
“Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food…
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord is my strength.
He makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.”