This is not really a sermon. These are just a few thoughts from my studies today and it helps me just to type it out. I hope it helps you to read it.
I’ve been asked to share a message on March 31, since it’s Youth Sunday and I am sort of a youth pastor. During my quiet time, the Lord keeps bringing me back to this tiny book at the end of the Old Testament – Habakkuk – maybe it’s an encouragement to you as well.
In the first few verses, Habakkuk is pleading with God – angry at God even – and that’s ok. Imagine him sitting in his vehicle during a lunch break (I’m not sure what Habakkuk would drive…probably a truck…)
God, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? How many times do I have to yell, “Help! Murder! Police!” before you come to the rescue? Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day? Anarchy and violence break out, quarrels and fights all over the place. Law and order fall to pieces. Justice is a joke. The wicked have the righteous hamstrung and stand justice on its head.
Then God answers him – it’s not good news, btw:
Look around at the godless nations. Look long and hard. Brace yourself for a shock. Something’s about to take place and you’re going to find it hard to believe.
In a nutshell, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. But in the next two chapters, as he continues talking with God, Habakkuk is reminded of God’s strength and mercy:
God, I’ve heard what our ancestors say about you, and I’m stopped in my tracks, down on my knees. Do among us what you did among them. Work among us as you worked among them. And as you bring judgment, as you surely must, remember mercy.
By the end of the book (it’s only 3 chapters) Habakkuk realizes that sometimes, life just stinks. The circumstances that are causing him pain and stress are not his fault, but he has JOY.
Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to God. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain!
Do you struggle with what to do and where to go from here? Do what Habbakuk did. Stay on your knees in prayer, sing praise to God, count on God to prevail, take heart, and gain strength from Him.
I can tell you what NOT to do. Don’t do what makes you happy. I know that sounds weird, but “do what makes you happy” is terrible advice. So often we know what God says we should do, but we do our own thing because it’s easier. But it turns out The Fray was right – sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same. Instead, do what glorifies God – do what He says to do – and He will give you something even better than happiness… JOY.
Joy can share its space with other emotions – sadness, shame or anger. Happiness can’t.
Happiness is not present in darkness and difficulty. But JOY never leaves it.
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Joy is present. In the moment. Happiness just passes through.
Scripture taken from The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
Note: I used The Message in the scripture references above, which is unusual for me, but I wanted to convey the simplicity of Habakkuk’s cry – the raw emotion that he is expressing – and I think The Message helps us relate with the prophet and see these same emotions in our own lives.