Can we QUESTION GOD in the MIDST of our TROUBLES? “The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw. O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ and You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble?” (Hab. 1:1-3)
This book, introduced as the “burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw” (v. 1), gives the account of a spiritual journey of a prophet of God called Habakkuk from doubt to worship. The name ‘Habakkuk’ means ‘embrace’, either signifying that he was ‘embraced by God’ who strengthened him for his difficult task, or he was ‘embracing others’ and encouraging them during this time of national crisis.
The book of Habakkuk is filled with one man’s perplexing questions, and God’s profound answers. For asking these questions, Habakkuk painfully observes God’s apparent indifference and inactivity in the face of undeserved suffering. He sees the wickedness of God’s people in Judah and prays for God to work, but God didn't seem to hear. By a series of questions Habakkuk calls on God to set in order those in his nation who are mistreating the weak and helpless among them. Then he charges God with passivity for allowing these evil actions to continue.
Richard W. De Haan, who is one of the prominent authors of ‘Our Daily Bread’ makes the following observation: “Habakkuk was not a self-centered person concerned only with the comfort and safety of himself and his family. As a true patriot, he was deeply distressed by the moral and spiritual conditions about him. He loved his nation, and knew it was moving ever closer to the precipice of destruction by continuing to break the laws of God. Therefore two anguished questions burst forth from his lips: How long? And Why?”
In the first four verses Habakkuk is overwhelmed by the circumstances all about him. Although he addresses God (v. 2), he believes God has removed Himself from the earthly scene. He can think of nothing except the iniquity and violence he sees among his people, and so he complains to God about the terrible violence, iniquity, robbery, strife, and injustice in Judah (vv. 2-4). He asks God how long it would be allowed to go unpunished. Habakkuk is not afraid to wrestle with issues that test his faith as he openly and honestly directs his problems to God and waits to see how God will respond to his probing questions.
The rest of the narrative makes it clear that God did not strike Habakkuk down for asking these questions. Rather, God answered patiently and explained that He Himself will establish His kingdom one day, and He will hold all people and nations accountable for their actions. The present may be filled with wickedness and chaos, but the future belongs to the righteous—the truly righteous! God will give rest to His children while judging His adversaries righteously!
Some people believe that we, as human beings, should never question the ways of God. Some even feel that it borders on sin to ask God, “Why?” But this book counters this idea as it is filled with the perplexing questions of Habakkuk and God’s penetrating answers. Habakkuk is not unlike many people today who are troubled by the world around them as they wonder: Where is God? Why doesn't He do something about all the pain and suffering, the injustice and oppression, the wars and diseases that destroy humanity? If He is there, why doesn't He speak? If He is powerful, why doesn't He act? If He is loving, why doesn't He intervene in times of injustice?
So, can we question God in the midst of our troubles? Yes, we certainly can. Even though God may not explain everything to our satisfaction or, due to our limited understanding as His thoughts and ways are higher (Isaiah 55:8-9), He assures us (just as He assured Habakkuk) that His ways are just and righteous, and furthermore, “the just shall live by faith” (2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38). In the end, the ultimate answer to our questions is to trust God! This is what Habakkuk decided to do, no matter how desperate things might appear (see 3:17–19). This is similar to what King David did as well, as seen from his words below: