Reflections and Blog

Holy Wrestling with God’s Difficult Providence

Now that we’ve finished studying Habakkuk together, it’s worth taking time to consider who else in the Bible similarly struggled with the difficult providence of God and ultimately came back to the same place of trust and worship. Three other OT men come to mind:

Job was a righteous man who suddenly lost everything—a very real application of Hab 3:17—and seemingly for no good reason. Though Job’s initial response to his calamity was one of humble worship (Job 1:20-22), he fell under increasing accusation by his friends and therefore desired more and more to hear a vindicating explanation from God (e.g. Job 13:15, 18). Like Habakkuk, what bothered Job most about his situation was that God seemed to be violating his own character, a character that Job had come to know and love (Job 7:17-21; 19:6-12, 25-27; 29:1-4). God did appear and speak to Job but, as with Habakkuk, God did not give the explanation for which Job was looking; rather, God reminded Job about who God is and how God knows how to take care of all in the universe, Job included (Job 38:1-7ff). Job then returned to a posture of humble trust and, in the end, God rewarded Job for Job’s perseverant faith (Job 42:10-17; James 5:11).

In Psalm 73, Asaph muses on a problem with which both Job and Habakkuk also struggle: that many times the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer. Asaph could not understand why God would let evil-doers boast in their own success while Asaph himself, a faithful follower of God, only feels stricken and chastened by God every day (Ps 73:3; 13-14). Asaph brings his complaint to God, but then, like Habakkuk, goes to listen to God in the temple (Ps 73:16-17). There, Asaph remembers that God will deal justly in the end with the righteous and the wicked: the wicked will be suddenly destroyed while the righteous will be received into glory (Ps 73:19-20, 24). The outcome for Asaph is just like for Habakkuk: Asaph confesses God to be Asaph’s true treasure and portion, and Asaph praises God in worship (Ps 73:25-28). The whole experience is even commemorated in a public prayer song for Israel.

Perhaps the most striking parallel to Habakkuk is Jeremiah in the book of Lamentations. Jeremiah was a contemporary of Habakkuk, and both prophets foretold the dreadful invasion of Babylon against Judah (Jer 20:4-5; Hab 1:6). Yet, while Habakkuk’s prophecy ends with Habakkuk anticipating the coming onslaught, the book of Lamentations describes the aftermath. The situation in Judah is just as horrifying as Habakkuk prophesied: the majority of the people of Judah have been slaughtered or taken into exile (Lam 1:3; 2:21-22); the great men of the city have been killed and dishonored while the women have been ravished (Lam 5:11-12); famine grips Jerusalem to such an extreme level that starving children perish in the laps of their mothers, and then the starving mothers boil the children for their own food (Lam 2:11-12, 20; 4:9-10). Jeremiah admits that Judah deserves this devastation for its sin, yet he cannot stop weeping over the destruction (Lam 1:16; 2:11; 4:6). Is there any hope in such a terrible situation? Jeremiah knows that there is only one path forward, and it is to remember and trust in the unchanging character of God. God will judge the wicked and rescue the righteous in the end (Lam 3:26, 31-32, 64-66), and God himself will be the righteous’ good portion in the meantime (Lam 3:24).

As with Habakkuk, from the depths of Jeremiah’s sorrow comes one of the most powerful statements about the Lord’s worth in the Bible—even one we sing ourselves today. I’ll close this week’s meditation by quoting Jeremiah’s words of faith-filled worship directly:

Lamentations 3:19-26,
Remember my affliction and my wandering,
the wormwood and bitterness.
Surely my soul remembers
And is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the Lord.

Questions to Consider:
1. Why are the experiences and outcomes of the men mentioned above so similar?
2. Are there any NT examples of those who wrestled with God’s difficult providence and came back to trust and worship? If so, who?
3. How is the experience of our spiritual forefathers instructive for our own wrestling with God?