From lament to praise
The ODB reading today reminded me of warfare in the Ukraine, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Afghanistan. These wars commenced in 2014 (escalated in 2022), 1948, 2018, 1991, and 1978 respectively.
In about 605 BC the prophet Habakkuk wrote,
“How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted” (Hab.1:2-4NIV).
He is asking, why does evil seem to go unpunished? God seemed to condone cruelty and violence and injustice. Wickedness, strife, and oppression were rampant, but God seemingly did nothing. Why does God not respond to prayer? It represented the godly people in Judah struggling to understand the ways of God.
Later he recalls God’s power shown in the Exodus from Egypt and the conquest of the land of Canaan (Hab. 3:1-15).
Then as he waits for God to act (Hab. 3:16), he declares:
“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 tread on the heights” (Hab. 3:17-19).
In a bad situation, he chose to “rejoice in the Lord”. No matter what happens, he will trust in God who is his strength. He didn’t understand God’s ways, but He trusted Him. Habakkuk changed from being problem-centered to being God-centered.
The apostle Paul came to a similar conclusion, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him [Jesus Christ] who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:11-13). He was content whatever the circumstances. Circumstances do not need to determine our state of mind. He was independent of circumstance because he was dependent upon Christ. Contentment does not come automatically. Paul was content in prison. Inner composure is inseparable from the sustaining power of God
Paul also said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). Christian joy is independent of circumstance. It is the antidote to conflict (Phil. 4:2). Habakkuk agreed, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Hab. 3:18). God is the source of lasting joy.
Only God can turn lament into praise. And one day, God will turn every lament of the godly into praise.
This post was inspired by an article by Glenn Packam.
Written, January 2023