“So I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten…” Joel 2:25
I looked her in the eye, reached out and wiped the tears streaming down her face – and handed her a tissue for the hundredth time.
“Here now, dry your eyes and wipe that snot from your nose…” I loved on my friend of more than 20 years. She looked at me with such pain in her countenance. She was undone and I knew it. Lord, I silently thought, can she really take anymore trouble in her life?
This woman, a strong lady, an amazing mother and wife, an incredible sister and friend to me was in absolute crisis. Her life was falling apart. Her marriage was a disaster zone, she had many personal concerns and she had just been diagnosed with a life-changing illness. It had been a long year and it wasn’t over yet….
“How long,” she asked, “how long can I take this deep pain?” She implored me as if I had an answer. I didn’t.
And so I silently prayed for wisdom and I heard in my heart – “Tell her I will embrace her.”
“What?” I said out loud. “What do you mean?”
I shared it with my sweet friend, not even knowing what it meant. That’s all I “heard” in that moment but after sitting there for awhile and holding her hand, I quietly began to remember a bible study I had attended years before. It was the study of Habakkuk.
Habukkuk was an old testament prophet. He was a good guy – a man of God. Probably a dad, a friend, a brother and an all in all solid citizen of Israel. Yet, he was ticked off at those around him because he saw bad behavior and was personally hurt by the damage it brought to him and his nation. (sound familiar)? He was upset with the evil and vile behaviors of his people, the Israelites. They had turned their backs on God and were idolatrous, violent and unrepentant people. And so he cries out to God…
Habakkuk asked God, “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” But you do not save?”
God advises that He sees it all and will be using an even more wicked and corrupt nation, the Babylonians, to rebuke and punish the Israelites.
Habakkuk doesn’t like God’s answer. (bit of an upstart don’t you think)?
“Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?”…..the prophet asks why God would “allow the wicked to swallow up those more righteous than they?”
But God patiently responds, and explains that He will also judge the Babylonians after all is completed. God basically tells his prophet to wait on Him. To watch and more importantly to trust what He is doing.
“Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe,even if you were told.”
“I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.”
God responds again and issues 5 woes (complaints) against the nations.
Still, the prophet is not satisfied and continues to badger God. God responds again,
Wait on God’s plan. Wait on God’s response. Wait on God’s punishment. Wait on God’s restoration. Wait Habakkuk, and trust Me, is what the Lord his God tells him… At the end of the scripture Habakkuk finally “gets it” and praises God with a song,
“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”
I wonder how many time we all feel like Habakkuk? I know that is exactly what my friend was feeling. How long God, how long will I be in pain? How long will these troubles visit me? Why am I being subjected to this time of trouble in my life? Am I not YOUR daughter, Lord? What have I done to deserve this, she wondered to me…
In times like this, when a loved one is having a soul-crushing experience, I have learned the best medicine is to listen and let the person release their pain and poison. Everyone needs a voice and more importantly to be heard. There would be time for my guidance or suggestions but this was not that time. I held her. I cried with her. I got angry for her. And I wiped her nose and stroked her hair. And she quieted, and she finally slept in my lap.
It was more than a dozen months before my friend’s life began to heal again, and through it all, we eventually did talk about the message I received in my heart that awful day. “Tell her I will embrace her.” We read and discussed the book of Habakkuk and together learned its lessons.
God knew already what was wrong.
God allowed it to come to a head.
God brought destruction on the wrong-doing
God punished the guilty.
God accepted repentance.
God never stopped loving.
Like Habakkuk, my friend could not understand why God would allow such trouble in her life.
But God reminds us that the “righteous must live by faith.”
And now, a few years away from that season she is more retrospect and certainly though she did not like the process – oh my, the lessons learned. When God says trust Him – then we can. When God says wait, then we must, when God says “I got this…” He really does.
For myself, I too have felt like Habakkuk. Oh let me tell you, I have lived up “on that wall” like him watching the destruction of my own life. And I have shook my fist at God and said, “How long?”
The answer to how long is “however long it takes…”
I smile as I write this – because there is a lesson for all of us in this. Do you know the meaning of the name Habukkuk?
It means “Embraced…”
Amen and Amen.