There are times when my faith in God feels stronger than ever. God is moving, prayers are being answered, and lives are being changed because of the power and love of Christ. But there are other times when God stretches my faith. Like me, you may have asked the question, why does God allow evil things to happen?
If you have, you are in good company. The prophet Habakkuk wrestled with this very question, too. Like Habakkuk, I’ve discovered that it’s not so much my immediate circumstances that God uses to grow my faith, but rather my questions about what will happen later. Will wicked people ever be brought to account? Will this situation ever get better?
The book of Habakkuk is a timeless message, written to encourage us to trust in God during those times that we do not understand what He is doing. Habakkuk’s book is comprised of three sections. The first part recounts Habakkuk’s asking God why evil seemed to continue unabated in Israel. Israel at this time had become a corrupt nation. Bribery, bloodshed, and corruption in their judicial system were commonplace. God astonished His faithful prophet by informing him that He would indeed judge Israel’s wickedness by allowing them to fall prey to the conquering Babylonian army. More perplexed than ever, Habakkuk then asked the Lord why He would use a nation even more evil than Israel to bring about His judgment. How could God in His holiness bear to look upon the even greater evil of Babylon? God encouraged Habakkuk by declaring that Babylon, too, would one day be held accountable. In the third and final section, Habakkuk resolves to trust in God over the long haul, believing that God would one day make all things right.
Habakkuk discovers, by questioning God, that “The just shall live by faith” (2:4). The apostle Paul would go on to quote this very passage in Rom. 1:17, to teach that God’s very righteousness is revealed in the gospel message of Jesus Christ. The following biblical truths enforce this fact:
We must live by what we know, not just by what we feel. Make no mistake; feelings do play an integral role in who we are. The tender feelings my good friend has for his two daughters (with a third child on the way!), or the feelings of affection one has for his or her spouse, are very real, and were given to us by God. But feelings, if left unchecked by biblical truths, can lead to disastrous consequences in our personal decisions (witness Amnon’s treacherous behavior in 2 Sam. 13:1-21).
We must therefore recognize, as Habakkuk did, that God’s plans are often not what we would have planned, had we been planning things our way. God was going to use the wicked Babylonians to judge His people, a decision that seemed perplexing to Habakkuk. But Habakkuk committed himself to trust in God all the more.
Also remember that the gospel of Christ is still being preached. The apostle Paul wrote, in Col. 1:6, that the gospel of Christ was “bearing fruit and growing” in different cultures around the world.
God’s patience and grace in forestalling judgment, whether nationally or on an individual level, actually results in people having more opportunities to put their faith in Christ. While the Bible promises that judgment will one day happen, God is in the business of saving as many people as will follow Him.
The Lord uses evil times for His own ends. God may allow tough times to continue in our lives for a season. If He does, remember that such times are always intended by Him, for us to draw closer to Him. Facing such times ought to give us pause, to ask the question, how can we know Him better in this circumstance?
Despite the tough times, God is still good, and He is still able. If either of these truths were not so, I would probably have a hard time sleeping at night. But the fact is that both of these things are true! Though difficult times may linger, I am personally comforted by the fact that God has not overlooked my situation, that He is intimately aware of my circumstances, and that he loves me with an everlasting love.
Critics of Christianity have often voiced the objection that if God exists, then He is either not all-powerful, since He would stop evil if he could, or He is not all-loving, since if He really wanted to stop evil, He would. But this objection fails for at least two reasons. One is that God will one day stop all evil, as it exists, in practice. The Bible teaches that there will indeed come a day when God will put an end to all wickedness, forever (Rev. 21-22). But the second reason is that God has already begun to counter evil in reality, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The cross of Christ displays the stark severity of God’s judgment, both of evil and of His love for this world. Paul wrote that because sin has already been judged at the cross, we should consider ourselves as “more than conquerors” in this world, despite whatever trials come our way (Rom. 8:37). Indeed, trials will come our way (Rom. 8:36, Jms. 1:2ff.), yet nothing will separate us from His love for us (Rom. 8:37-39). And His plans will prevail (Phil. 2:10-11).
I do not know what the Lord may allow me to experience by way of trials in my life. What I do believe, however, is that God is good, that He is in control, and that He loves us all with an unfailing love, despite what may come. Jesus observed that it is a wise person who will build his or her life upon His words (Matt. 7:24-27). When the storms of life arise, we will then find that we are on sure ground, as we commit to trusting and following Him.
Allen can be reached at [email protected].