The Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
—Habakkuk 2:20, 3:19
As I write this, all people on earth are suffering. The entire globe groans with the pain of illness, death, economic downturn, and more—a global pandemic. How will we respond?
In Habakkuk’s time, suffering was present, and all signs suggested the future would only be more painful (spoiler: it was!). Habakkuk called out to God, dialoguing with the Almighty about his concerns. But the prophet wasn’t only interested in a return to ease: he knew that there would always be suffering if society was founded on injustice, if the powerful leaders oppressed the poor and vulnerable. Habakkuk demanded a relief from suffering that included justice (as God’s prophets always have).
Importantly, Habakkuk realizes that God’s justice and relief will not come gently. In addition to the passages we’ve read this week, other images in scripture include mountains being lowered and valleys being raised up. This isn’t a comfortable solution—especially for those of us on the mountains, those of us with enough in a world that allows too many to be hungry and powerless.
And yet, Habakkuk praises God, preparing to rejoice in what God will do. Though the solution to his crisis may feel even worse than the troubles at hand, Habakkuk believes in God’s character and faithfulness. He commits to rejoicing even if there are no sheep in the pens or figs on the tree. He commits to wait, patiently. He knows God’s will is for good and the Lord will not be outplayed.
In addition to the suffering we all face, our current pandemic has highlighted the injustices that form the foundation of our own society. Will we settle for disease, death, and downturn easing up so we can go back to normal, or will we commit to seeking greater justice going forward as well?
I love how the prophet signs off this book, the capstone to all that has been said: The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
May we all remember, in the midst of our suffering and questions and doubts, that God is our strength and our portion, always, no matter what comes.
Questions for reflection and discussion: Those of us “on the mountain” have so much to learn about loving justice, about rejoicing in God during calamity. What have you learned from Habakkuk this week? How has the Lord’s mercy comforted you during these weeks of loss and pain? How has the Lord’s justice confronted you?