Trusting God in the Darkness
- Tony Evans
- 2005 30 Apr
Many of us are currently walking through life confused, weary, tired, frustrated, lost, and perhaps a little bit afraid. The prophet Habakkuk could relate. He was a little confused too, and he had some questions for God that we can understand. He asks: “How long, oh LORD, will I call for help?” (Habakkuk 1:2). He felt that God was taking too long to come through for him. Have you ever felt like that? You believe God, but He sure is moving slow in your life! Not only that, but God's movements were confusing to Habakkuk. In fact, God responds to his question: “Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days--you would not believe if you were told” (v. 5). Habakkuk could not understand what God was doing. In this particular prophesy God gave Habakkuk, God was going to raise up an evil people called the Babylonians who would discipline His people, the Israelites. Habakkuk does not see how God can do this: “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor. Why do you look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?” (v. 13). In other words, Habakkuk is saying it's not fair to let wicked people triumph over God's people.
Habakkuk thinks God is slow to act, hard to understand, and unfair in His actions. We're not the only ones who think these thoughts about God sometimes! It's hard to admit these thoughts because it makes us sound so unspiritual. But in our heads, these thoughts pop up. We believe God and the things He says, but there are times that real questions come into our minds. The good news is we aren't alone. Scripture tells us that Habakkuk faced many of the questions and fears that we are familiar with.
The book of Habakkuk starts out in a pit, but we'll see that it ends up on a peak. Physically, Habakkuk is a wreck: “I heard and my inward parts trembled, at the sound my lips quivered, decay enters my bones, and in my place I tremble” (3:16). He is falling apart, unraveling.
Do you feel like you are unraveling? Maybe you are facing chaos at home, at work, everywhere in your life. Maybe you're ready for a change, ready to put the past behind you, but a little scared of what the future holds. That was Habakkuk's problem. And he had to “wait quietly for the day of distress, for the people to arise who will invade us” (3:16). The future looked dim and he wasn't excited about it! But look carefully at the next three verses and what they express about Habakkuk's faith: “Though the fig tree should not blossom and though there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord GOD is my strength. He has made my feet like hinds' feet, and makes me to walk on my high places” (3:17-19).
You see, from a worldly standpoint, there are three ways you can look at negative situations. One way is to resign yourself to the situation, thinking that's just the way it's going to be. The second way to deal with negative situations is detachment. In other words, people distract themselves so they don't have to think about their problems. Detachment doesn't solve anything; it just keeps problems under the surface. The third way people deal with struggles is with bravado, which means you “take it like a man.” You hold your chin up and handle the situation with sheer determination. The only problem with this is that it never lasts-pep talks can only get you so far.
So the question we must ask is what do we as Christians do when we face problems or uncertainties, or when it seems that God is taking too long, or our struggles are too big to handle? Habakkuk shows us how he handles it: “I will exult in the LORD” (v. 18). He says, “Even though I have my questions and confusion and I don't see the first solution in sight, I am going to exult in the Lord. I am going to trust in the reliability of God, even when I can't see Him or what He is doing.” Habakkuk chose to trust God, to believe God, even in the darkness.
When you are in the dark, you must trust God by faith based on His character and His works. Faith is only meaningful to the degree that its object has meaning. What is the object of your faith? If it isn't God, your faith is useless. For example, if you say you believe in Santa Claus, your belief is a waste of time because he doesn't exist. Belief only matters if its object has substance.
Every believer has a choice to make. We all face different circumstances, but each of us must decide whether we choose to believe God. We have to believe two things about God in order to have faith in Him as we walk in the dark. We must believe in His character, or what He tells us He is like. That's why theology is so important-it teaches us what to believe when hard times come. We've got to know that He is true, that He has power, that He has presence, and that He is with us. And we've got to believe His works. The Bible is the source; it tells us what God did in the past. Habakkuk spends verses 3-15 of chapter 3 talking about what God has done, alluding to the parting of the Red Sea and David killing Goliath.
Why do we need to know what God did in the past? Why is it important to know what He did in the Bible, in the life of your mother or your friend? Because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God is immutable; He does not change. He can still do what He did before. His methods are different with different individuals and situations because God doesn't have a cookie-cutter way of doing things. But He is the same in His purposes, and He will accomplish His plan.
When Habakkuk was walking in the dark, he quit trying to figure it all out for himself, and he left it up to God. Some people look to idols when they get desperate, but Habakkuk remembers, “The LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him” (Habakkuk 2:20). God is still on the throne, and no idol can compare to him. We need to be quiet because we know God is with us and working for us. When he wants us to know something, He'll let us know. In the meantime, we need to quit worrying, whining, and fussing and silence our troubled hearts before God. In other words, let God do what He is going to do. Let God be God.
God is in His holy temple, and what do we do in a temple? We worship. In our confusion, our lack of clarity, our emptiness, our despair, we must worship. We must simply say, “Lord, all I can do is adore you in your temple because I have no explanation for anything that is happening to me.” This is really an act of faith. Exulting in the God of our salvation when troubles come doesn't look like the obvious thing to do. But in faith, we do it. And it won't necessarily make everything instantly better, but at least we acknowledge that Almighty God is in control.
Riding in an airplane is an experience that requires faith-faith that the pilot will navigate that huge piece of machinery safely through the air. Have you ever experienced turbulence when riding in a plane? It's a little unnerving because you don't know what is going on. It could just be a patch of rough air, or it might not be turbulence at all, but a failed engine or some other catastrophe. When the flight gets bumpy, what you want more than anything is to hear the pilot's voice come over the loudspeaker and say, “Nothing to worry about, folks. We've just hit a little rough air. I will get us through it and the turbulence will be over shortly.”
When we hit turbulence in our lives, the best thing we can do is enter into God's holy presence. You won't necessarily stop the bumpy air, but as God speaks to your heart you will know that somebody has your life under control, just like the pilot has control of the plane.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom…” The key word is “though,” which in this context basically means “suppose.” Suppose I get sick, or suppose I lose my job, or suppose we don't have the rent money, what are we going to do? But Habakkuk, instead of worrying about “suppose,” acknowledges that no matter what happens, he will exult in the Lord. He will make a choice to focus on who God is and what He has done.
What will happen if you choose to rejoice in the Lord while facing times of darkness? First, you will be controlled by joy instead of happiness. Everyone in our society just wants to be happy. Happiness is feeling good because our circumstances are good. The problem with happiness is that when your circumstances take a bad turn, you aren't feeling too happy anymore. Happiness is a roller coaster of ups and downs.
But when we have joy in the God of our salvation we have inner stability and tranquility regardless of external circumstances. Joy is not dependent on what's happening out in our world, but on what's happening in our hearts. That's why Paul says: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). When our joy is found in the eternal God, we always have reason to rejoice.
The second benefit of choosing to worship God in the darkness is that you receive strength for the journey. Habakkuk says: “The Lord GOD is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds' feet, and makes me walk on my high places” (v. 19). A lack of joy and hope certainly saps your strength; it makes you want to stay in bed all day and stay in a perpetual state of depression. But God makes our feet like “hind's feet,” like the feet of a mountain deer, nimble, quick, and strong to make it up and over the mountains we face.
Habakkuk earlier asked God how long he would endure his trials and told God he didn't understand what God was doing. Now he tells us that he has joy and strength from God to face whatever obstacles come his way. He is able to walk on high places; steep mountains that would seem impossible to climb were it not for God's strength and equipping.
As we consider how to trust God in the dark places in our lives, let's also think about the story of Peter as he saw the Lord walking on the water. Jesus told him to come out on the water with Him. Peter stepped on the water, but the Bible tells us he began to get distracted by the wind and waves whipping around him. In other words, he began to focus on his circumstances. When Peter took his eyes off the Lord and began to focus on his situation, he began to sink. Just like Peter, we will sink every time if we are focused on our circumstances instead of our solution, Jesus Christ.
But as Peter began to sink, he realized he had to change his focus. He looked up and said, “Lord, save me.” And the Lord saved him and allowed him to walk on the water again.
God is inviting us to look up, to keep our eyes on Him in the midst of our storms and trials. We can make the choice to trust Him and worship Him no matter what happens in our lives.