(this transcript has been lightly edited for readability)
Habakkuk really addresses this question, “How is it that you make sense out of your circumstances?” We need the shockingly honest message of Habakkuk. Where does your heart go when life makes no sense at all; when God doesn't seem near; when He doesn't seem caring; when, from your vantage point, God seems inactive; when it feels like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling?
I love Habakkuk because it's a dialogue between the prophet and God. And probably the two questions that are asked that everybody, if they’re honest, asks at some point in their relationship with God, “Where are you? God, where are you? I've hooked my life to you; are you there?” And second question, the corollary question that hooks to the first one is, “And what in the world are you doing?”
I would subtitle Habakkuk, “Is God absent?” Here's what Habakkuk challenges. It challenges the temptation that all of us have in letting our circumstances define God for us, that our theology is a circumstantial theology. It's driven by our personal, temporary, narrow interpretation of our lives. And so, if good doesn't seem to be happening in our lives, then it seems okay to question the goodness and faithfulness of God. It never works! You can never ever have a stable hope-giving, life-transforming theology based on your read of the circumstances. The opposite is the case, that what is called for in Habakkuk is you let God's careful, consistent revelation of Himself be the means by which you interpret your circumstances.
Let me give you an example. Let's say it's a bright, sunny day; the sun is shining brightly. But you're down in your basement that has no windows that's completely dark. Now you know it would be an act of personal insanity to conclude, because you're in the darkness, that the sun no longer exists. But it doesn't seem so insane for us when we let a particular hard set of circumstances begin to cause us to question the goodness, the faithfulness of God. And sadly, we become comfortable in bringing God into the court of our judgment and question His character.
I love the resolve of Habakkuk. In fact, this is one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture; it's a passage that does get me up in the morning. Here's the final verses of Habakkuk, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor no fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls. . .”
Now if you're in an agricultural economy, that means it's over. Now here's what follows, “…yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” And then it says, “To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments,” and that means, “Sing this every day because God is faithful to His declaration of who He is.” You have reason for hope, reason for joy, no matter what your circumstances may say to you.