Reflections and Blog

Where Are You Looking during Trials?

One theme you might have noticed in Habakkuk over the past two Sundays is the theme of sight. Many times in the first two chapters of the book do we see terms that directly relate to looking, seeing, or beholding. In fact, these purposefully used sight terms emphasize for us what we should be doing with the eyes of our hearts when we encounter various and long-term trials.

The “oracle which Habakkuk the prophet saw” begins with the prophet reporting what he sees in his circumstances to God: that evil oppression abounds while God apparently is doing nothing about it (Hab 1:1-4). Habakkuk asks God why God makes Habakkuk “see iniquity” and “look on wickedness” (Hab 1:1, 3). Like Habakkuk, we, too, can look at our hard circumstances and conclude that God is doing nothing or that God doesn’t care.

But then God directs Habakkuk’s sight elsewhere: “Look among the nations! Observe!…Behold” (Hab 1:5, 6). In Habakkuk 1:5-11, God peels back the veil of his mysterious providence and shows Habakkuk that God is working and is specifically raising up the Babylonians to deal with Judah’s evil. In a similar way, God invites us via his scriptures to look at what he’s really doing when we face trials: sanctifying his people, putting his gospel on display, saving the elect, judging evil, and glorifying his own name.

Yet the supernatural sight God provided left Habakkuk with questions about God’s own sight in Hab 1:12-17: “Your eyes are too pure to approve [literally “see”] evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor. Why do you look with favor on those who deal treacherously?” (Hab 1:13). With what God revealed, Habakkuk saw a God who appeared to act unjustly and who let evildoers succeed without any punishment. We also, when we witness God’s actions in the world, can see them as showing how God is unfaithful to his own character and promises.

Though Habakkuk reports to God what God’s actions look like to the prophet, Habakkuk also realizes that his sight his limited and, in Habakkuk 2:1, goes to “keep watch” and “to see” what God might reply to correct the prophet’s vision. God indeed had a corrected “vision” for Habakkuk in Habakkuk 2:4-20, a vision so important that it needed to be written down for all generations. The most important part of the vision was for the prophet to “behold” how a justified person will find life before God: by humble, perseverant faith. God also shows Habakkuk multiple pictures of how God’s justice and goodness will be vindicated in the future. Like Habakkuk, we, too, need to have our vision adjusted to remember the faithfulness of God and the faith-filled-ness we need as believers. God will not explain everything to us now, but we can know that we will see our good and his glory in the end.

We haven’t got there yet, but Habakkuk 3 also has something vision-related. Though in Habakkuk 3:1-19 we do not see any more explicit sight terms, we do find an arresting image of God as the warrior of light. He is the powerful God with flashing spear who goes forth to rescue his people and strike down his enemies. He is the God of perfect justice and wrath who cannot be resisted and who cannot fail to save.

That “the oracle which Habakkuk the prophet saw” should end with this glorious depiction of God is instructive, especially for how we Christians should handle trials. Just as our behavior must go through the proper steps that we see in Habakkuk of questioning, listening, and worshipping, so must the vision of our hearts. We must not stop with a mere assessment of our circumstances but look beyond them to behold again what the promises of God are, what God in his word declares and what the final outcome will be. Ultimately, our vision needs to settle on our glorious God himself, for when we see who God really is, then we can rejoice amid trial and find peace to walk with him on high places (Hab 3:19).

2 Corinthians 5:7, For we walk by faith, not by sight.

Questions to Consider:
1. What do your circumstances suggest about God? Are those suggestions true?
2. Do you have to “see” exactly how your circumstances are going to turn out or how God is doing right before you can trust him?
3. What kind of testimony do you give to others by the way you direct the eyes of your heart?