Friday, March 26, 2010

Groaning Faith

I tried to listen to the words that Celestin Musekura spoke on that Sunday morning in 2003. I tried to grasp the possibility of a triumphant faith growing out of a groaning, grieving faith. He spoke of the war in Rwanda that had claimed the lives of his mother, his father, his brother, his sister, his niece, his nephew and so many more. How could he not groan in the midst of such loss that seemed like abandonment by the God he trusted?

Celestin used the example of Habakkuk to tell his story. Habakkuk was a prophet who spoke into history during the reign of  King Josiah over Judea. A Brief Summary: The Book of Habakkuk begins with Habakkuk crying out to God for an answer to why God’s chosen people are allowed to suffer in their captivity (Habakkuk 1:1-4). The Lord gives His answer to Habakkuk, essentially stating, “You wouldn’t believe it if I told you” (Habakkuk 1: 5-11). Habakkuk then follows up by saying, “Ok, you are God, but still tell me more about why this is happening” (Habakkuk 1:17-2:1). God then answers him again and gives him more information, then tells the earth to be silent before Him (Habakkuk 2:2-20). Then Habakkuk writes a prayer expressing his strong faith in God, even through these trials (Habakkuk 3:1-19). (

The struggle in the mind and heart of Habakkuk is the story of humanity. We want to understand. We want to know why.  Many times when it seemed justice was not being served or life seemed seriously wrong, I, like Habakkuk, have gone straight to God's throne. I take seriously my right of access granted by the price Christ paid and brazenly go with my mouth full of reasons why certain circumstances may not be in accord with what I expect of a righteous God. Many times, I say, "But, You said in Your Word..."  I boldly speak, hoping that I might some how call Him to change the things that cause me or one I love such pain or confusion or fear. These time may have come after I tried to “do it right”, secretly, in some part of my self, wanting to influence God with my goodness. Whatever my motivation for going, I firmly believe that God has always welcomed me.

In Habakkuk’s day, God chose to use the unrighteous Babylonians to bring judgment on the apostate Judeans. Even though the Babylonians were arrogant and worshiped their own strength, they were sent to overwhelm Judah. Does this make sense? The prophet cried out, “Oh Lord, are you not from everlasting? Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?" The American Heritage Dictionary defines treacherous as "those willfully betraying fidelity, confidence, or trust…those not to be relied on; not dependable or trustworthy; dangerous".

I have argued that God adjust his actions to my perception of what should or shouldn't be. I have wrestled and pleaded, reasoned and even demanded until exhausted. And I have never doubted I was heard.  But most often God would not leave me stuck within my own demands. Instead, He would wait until I was spent...until all my demands and arguments had been presented. Then, exhausted of all effort to make God fit into my perception, I, like Habakkuk, would withdraw and take a passive stance on the watchtower. “FINE, THEN! Say what you want. Do what you want. I’m too tired to deal with this. I’ll just wait.”

Then, I would begin to hear. Then my eyes would begin to see. Then, in the watching and the waiting and the emptying the revelation would begin to be seen. Then, with my mouth emptied to silence and my hands pried free from the demands for what I believed so important  I would be freed to surrender my misconstrued right to be God and take up my place rightly related to the Maker of the Universe.

In the story of Habakkuk we hear these words: “Then the Lord replied: Write down the revelation…it awaits an appointed time.” It would  be sixty-five years later before the prophecy given to Habakkuk would be fulfilled. God calls us as He did the prophet to faith…“Though it linger, wait for it.” The promise is made but the battle goes on. The cruelty and greed of the Babylonians are given full expression. Judah is taken into captivity. Violence and destruction of land, people, and animals ravaged the souls of God’s chosen ones. Yet, the call to believe rings out,“Though it linger, wait for it”.

Was this a senseless display of God’s power and authority? Was it just to break the people of His own making so that He might have more control? It seems so. The temptation to yield to the cynicism seems totally justified.

What makes the difference between faith and cynicism? I believe a choice must be made. It is a choice to declare God is not a man and I am not God. It is a choice to cease striving to be God. It is a choice to turn and look and wait for the One who promised.. It is a choice to step away from self into what we cannot see but what our souls have heard of. It is a choice to trust in the One who spoke. It is a choice to believe in the One He sent and who will come again. It is a choice to be the sheep, not the Shepherd.

Habakkuk chose prayer as his expression of that faith.
Lord, I have heard of your fame;
            I stand in awe of your deeds,O Lord.
Renew them in our day,
            in our time make them known;
            in wrath remember mercy
 During a hard stretch when I so wanted to give way to anger and give up fighting the pain in my soul and dive headlong into unbelief, I entered the sanctuary for a Wednesday evening Lenten service. I was holding hands with cynicism when the Spirit of God spoke gently to my soul. “I want you to choose to trust. “ This quiet voice in my ear was so personal and so real, yet fearing I would later think it was my own mind’s fabrication, I grabbed a pen from the pew and wrote it on my hand, “I choose to trust”. I have heard of your fame. I choose to trust. I stand in awe of your deeds. I choose to trust.
 Though the fig tree does not bud
            and there are no grapes on the vines
Though the olive crop fails
            and the fields produce no food
Though there are no sheep in the pen
            and no cattle in the stalls
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord
            I will be joyful in God my Savior
The Sovereign Lord is my strength
            he makes my feet like the feet of a deer
He enables me to go on the heights.

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