By Bob Vacendak1
Whether we are speaking of atrocities like 9-11, the Boston Marathon bombings or disasters like the tsunami in Indonesia or the fertilizer factory explosion in West, Texas, the question that is always at the forefront in the hearts and minds of good people is this: "Why?"
"Why did this happen?"
"Why does a good God allow things like this?"
"Why do bad things happen to kind and loving people like the ones we just spoke of?"
"Since God could stop people from doing evil, why doesn't He? Isn't God concerned about what's happening in this world?"
Habakkuk was a man who lived on this earth over 2000 years ago, but when he looked at the society around him, he was asking these same kinds of questions. Interestingly, one of the meanings of his name is "to wrestle." He was wrestling with some tough issues—he was a man who had a lot of questions for God.
When we open the little book God's Spirit used him to pen, we find him crying out to God about the society in which he lived. He's praying but he feels as if God is not listening:
Habakkuk 1:2 O LORD, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, "Violence!" And You will not save.
He is so torn up about what's happening around him that he begins to make some accusations against God.
First he says that God is indifferent: "God, how long will I have to pray? Don't you hear me?" One of the toughest things in life that all of us must face are those times when it seems as if God is slow to act on our behalf or in response to our prayers.
First, he accuses God of being indifferent, but next he accuses God of being inactive:
Habakkuk 1:3-4 Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises. 4 Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.
"God, can't you see what these people around me are doing" These people are getting away (literally) with murder! Robbery and violence are all around me. The police are powerless; good people are surrounded by criminals and the courts won't punish them. Why aren't You doing anything about this?"
So he not only accused God of being indifferent to his prayers, but he also accused God of being inactive "He wasn't doing anything about crime, sin, violence" nothing!
Once again, just a little later we find the word "why" on the lips of Habakkuk:
Habakkuk 1:13 You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?
That's the same question we hear in church today. "Lord, why do you look at evil people and do nothing when they brutalize and murder and wreak havoc on good people? Some of them are even church-going believers!"
In 1999 over in Fort Worth, a gunman walked into Wedgwood Baptist Church and killed seven people who were attending the teen service—four of them teenagers. The senior pastor of Wedgwood, Al Meredith, was up all night that Wednesday night and at 7:00 AM Thursday morning, he stood with law enforcement officials at a press conference in front of his church. In spite of just enduring the worst night of his life, he spoke the following words:
At times like this, when I'm asked, "Why? Where was God when all this happened?" The only thing I can say—He's right where He was when His own dear Son died on Calvary's cross. And He weeps with those who weep; He grieves with those who grieve. His heart is as broken as ours is. He knows what it's like to lose a son. He's here.
That is what we need to know and that is what Habakkuk needed to know. God is not inactive, and He is not indifferent. He knows exactly what is going on and He will respond in His own way and in His own good time.
The great Bible teacher of years gone by, A.C. Gaebelein said:
God has an appointed time for all His purposes and their fulfillment. He cannot be hastened, for His schedule was made before the foundations of the world...The...business...of every believer [is], to wait for it and not to be disturbed if there is delay, for the assurance is given that it will surely come and not tarry. And here faith can rest.
One of the reasons the apostle Peter gave to us for God's seeming delay in dealing with the problem of evil and evil doers was His compassion and mercy and love. He waits because He is giving people time to find Him:
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Did God have a purpose in letting the families of the Virginia Tech students and faculty lose children, and spouses, and precious loved ones?
Let me ask you this question, "Did God have a purpose in the crucifixion of Christ? Did He have something in mind when He allowed His very own Son to be brutalized and then to die at the hands of people who spit in His face?
He did. If Christ hadn't died, there would have been no payment for our sins. And without His payment—forgive me for being so blunt—we would have spent eternity separated from our Creator: "Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness" (Heb 9:22).
The night before He died, Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane that there might be some way the cup might pass from him—that He might somehow avoid the suffering of the cross. But He also prayed, "Not My will, but Thine be done."
In his book, Poems of Power, E.C. Wilcox included a piece simply entitled, "Gethsemane," and He reminds us that God has a purpose in all human suffering:
All those who journey, soon or late,
Must pass within the garden's gate;
Must kneel alone in darkness there.
And battle with some fierce despair.
God pity those who cannot say,
'not mine but thine' who only pray,
'Let this cup pass,' and cannot see,
The purpose in Gethsemane.
Habakkuk, that prophet who questioned God about the evil and violence that was all around him, quieted himself before God and God helped him understand His purpose—helped him see things more clearly.
When you read this little book of Habakkuk, in a nutshell, you see God say, "Habakkuk, I am working behind the scenes in ways that are so amazing that if I were to share them with you, you wouldn't believe them. Habakkuk, I do see the evil people perpetrate upon each other. And mark it down?people who harm and murder others will be judged. There is no escape. Even though my judgment on them seems delayed, I don't want you to worry or fear?I simply want you to live by faith. And I want to assure you that sin WILL BE punished and godliness WILL BE rewarded."
Habakkuk 2:4 Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.
So God assures Habakkuk that He will take care of every wrong that is perpetrated and that, one day, His glory, not the evil of man will fill the earth:
Habakkuk 2:14 For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.
Habakkuk, all you see around you seems wrong. But I want you to know that a day is coming when the knowledge of My glory will cover the whole earth! Eternity will be the great equalizer.
So what are we to do in the meantime?
Habakkuk 2:20 But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.
Friends, the Lord is on the throne! He is in His HOLY temple, and He is in control! Every promise He has given us will be fulfilled. Therefore he says: "Let all the earth be still and know that I am God!"
The man who began his book wrestling and worrying ends his book worshipping. He got quiet before the Lord and God gave him spiritual CPR.
The same words of faith that Habakkuk uttered at the close of his book are the very words the pastor of Wedgewood Baptist Church quoted at the news conference the day after seven members of his church were killed. Allow me to close with his great words of faith:
Habakkuk 3:16-19 I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us. 17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights (NLT).1 Bob Vacendak is pastor of Ridge Pointe Fellowship in Garland, TX. This article is an adaptation of a sermon he delivered following the Virginia Tech shooting of 2007. Below is a short testimony about his journey to grace: