Habakkuk – from Depression to Praising

A Sermon Preached on March 11, 2015

My favorite book in the Bible is Romans . . . I particularly love Romans 8, but it seems like very often God leads me to the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk doesn’t really get much notoriety. Folks don’t preach from this short book very often, but recently God has led me back there, so I’d like to share from this minor prophet tonight.

While you’re looking it up (it’s a short book just five books before the New Testament), I want to tell you what led me to this book tonight. You see, for most of my adult life I’ve struggled with a bit of depression. Not nearly as bad as some folks I know, but enough that I understand what it’s like. Over the years I’ve learned what brings it on, so I’m able to avoid it more often than I used to be. For instance, I know when I’ve taken on more than God has called me to, because that leads to depression.

However, there are other events that I can’t control and during the last ten days life events have been pretty overwhelming. From doctors not listening to me to my car door being ripped off in a parking lot, Steve having surgery and my mother-in-law needing a little extra care all at the same time. All things I can’t control, but lead me to that place where many of you are even more familiar than I.

It’s that place where you can’t seem to get out of bed in the morning, but you don’t want to go to bed at night either. It’s that tight feeling in your chest when sometimes you feel as though you can’t breathe. As I dealt with these symptoms over the last week, I remembered how it used to be in my 30’s.

I remember NOT getting out of bed. I would literally not be able to drag myself out of bed. Sometimes I’d be there till four or five o’clock in the evening, in tears all day. Everything I feel now was magnified at least ten times. Not to mention that back then it was an ongoing problem not just a trackable every now and then event like it is now. And I considered the difference.

And I think the main difference is the lessons I’ve learned over the years that can be found in Habakkuk.
I really think the reason this book doesn’t get preached much is because most of the book is depressing. Listen to the beginning of it. (Habakkuk 1:1-3)

How long, LORD, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?

Does that sound like a prayer you might pray? Most of us can sympathize with this prophet. The folks who translated the Bible call it Habakkuk’s first complaint. And many times we feel like Habakkuk. Sometimes we feel like we are calling out and God doesn’t hear us. We see injustice every time we turn on the news and sometimes right in our own backyard, and we wonder where God is. But it’s in this first chapter that I see one of the greatest lessons about God.
God doesn’t mind it when I complain.

It is comforting to me that Habakkuk cried out like this to God and God didn’t seem to mind. In the middle of those days when I am struggling, I find comfort in knowing that God doesn’t mind hearing my complaints.

In fact God didn’t scold Habakkuk for complaining. He answered the prophet. Look at Habakkuk 1:5-6

“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.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwellings not their own.

This doesn’t really sound like something that Habakkuk would want to hear. That’s why it’s kind of depressing. God tells the prophet that he’s going to take care of the injustice, but He’s going to send the Babylonians to help him teach the people of Israel a lesson. In other words, “it’s going to get worse before it gets better.” In chapter two, after Habakkuk complains again about this answer, God tells Habakkuk that the good times will come. He will punish Babylon, but it’s going to take a while.
That’s a message that we don’t want to hear, but in the middle of my depressing days, there’s a second lesson I can take from God’s message.

“Sometimes when we cry out and complain to God, His plan to fix it may take longer than we’d like.”

Sometimes I need reminded that God’s got it under control, and what seems like a bad idea to me is really God’s perfect plan. I need that gentle reminder that God’s ways are higher than my ways, and even if I can’t see the end of the trouble, I have to trust that it will all work out in the end. I’ve learned through the years that God really does have it under control.

That might not bring comfort to everyone, but I believe the closer we get to Christ and the more we trust God, the more that lesson brings peace in the midst of the chaos.
My favorite part of Habakkuk is the closing. I recently shared these verses with our youth as they participate in 30 hour famine. Recently as I’ve lived through this time of trial, I realize that this is what sustains me now. The attitude of these verses is what gets me out of bed when I feel as though I can’t. It’s this song of hope in the midst of hopelessness that sustains me.
Habakkuk 3:17-19
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.

It’s not an attitude that I adopted over night, but one that I’ve grown into. It’s a life style that has been developed as I spend more time worshipping, fellowshipping, learning how to be a disciple, reading His Word and serving others. The older I get the more I see others who haven’t developed this kind of attitude and I feel so bad for them. There is so much negativity in their lives, so much despair and hopelessness. But for those who invest the time to become all that Christ has created them to be, the more I see peace in their lives.

The closer I get to Christ and the more I allow His Holy Spirit to live within me, the more that I can truly say these words of Habakkuk from the heart.
Here’s my version of those verses . . . it’s been written over the last several years as life has come at me.
Even though my beautiful grandbaby was born with a condition that required surgery and me to learn how to be a caregiver, and
People I care about have turned their back on me and left me hurting.
Even though my car is ruined and my mother-in-law’s mind is gone.
I will still rejoice in God my Savior
I will be joyful in His Son Jesus Christ.
Because He is my Rock and my Salvation
His Spirit sustains me and lifts me up
He allows me to rise in the morning and serve Him daily.
He keeps me walking on the heights even when I feel though I am brought low.
I praise Jesus Christ my Lord.

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