I have a sixth sense, I feel. I can always recognize the moment I’m staring down the cliff of an important conversation off of which I’m about to try not to launch myself. I found myself on one of these cliffs recently and in that moment, the only prayer I could muster in my head was, “God, hi.” All I could say was “hi”?! How about “help” or “give me strength” or something descriptive; some phrase that meant something. No, all I could manage was two letters.
However, what I really meant to say was something to the effect of, “God, I really need Your help right here. Please give me the words and grant us both patience and understanding as we have this conversation,” but God already knew that. I’m pretty sure God heard that, the cry of my heart and I know He answered. In that conversation, though I didn’t trust Him fully with the outcome, He still provided understanding during the conversation so that it went smoothly and without confrontation and the end result was at least as good as I could have hoped for in my head which was racing (for lack of a more accurate phrase).
So, that’s an odd segue, but I see some parallels to Habakkuk’s first plea to God (Habakkuk 1:2–4). First of all, it’s not pretty or polished. Just look at Habakkuk’s list of concerns here. Not once does he use the words “I pray” or “I ask that You just”. Instead, he blurts it all out before God. However, that’s the point, it’s visceral. Habakkuk’s prayer is heartfelt and real. He is pouring out his deepest concerns and desires before God unashamedly. He doesn’t care that people thousands of years later see that he was upset, frustrated, angry, exasperated and utterly emotional. I feel like he’s saying, “Forget y’all, I’m praying!” And that is exactly what he does here.
Now, let’s look at God’s answer. Judging by verses six to eleven, it seems that God’s answering a completely different question. I feel like He’s taken Habakkuk’s concerns and said, “Well, that’s all well and good, but here’s what is important to Me,” and goes off answering what He’d rather answer. Yeah, on first glance, I feel that God is giving the proverbial stiff arm in His response, but being very diplomatic about it. He goes into great detail about the Chaldeans (Babylonians for the rest of us) who will come and conquer Israel. The imagery describing these Godless people is fantastic. Honestly, I wish I could write prose like this, but it doesn’t seem to have a whole lot to do with Habakkuk’s voiced concerns…
“Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.”
There is a very distinct reason why God’s response begins this way. In these two sentences, God answers all of Habakkuk’s concerns. I think volumes could be written about this response. In a nutshell, I hear God saying, “Calm down, son. I hear you just as I’ve heard all your prayers. If you were to take a minute to come down from the ledge, you’d see that I’ve been busy at work answering your prayers and I’m still at work as we speak. You need to give Me a little time, because now is not the right time, but soon enough it will be. Before you die, you will see your prayer come to fruition. Don’t worry, I am just as in control today as I have been since before time and nothing will change that. I love you, but please understand that beyond what I’m about to tell you, you simply wouldn’t understand, so you’ll have to trust Me a little,” but it only took God two sentences to say all that. God speaks so poignantly in this verse and merely expounds in the rest of His response so as to give Habakkuk a foretaste of God’s master plan already in the works. Honestly, it’s brilliant and it’s beautiful.
However, what about when God answers us this way? My response is typically some form of ingratitude stemming from the fact that God didn’t just give me what I asked. That’s not how God works and I need to stop being a baby and limiting Him this way. God doesn’t just give us what we ask of Him. Instead, He gives us a combination of intimacy, responding to our deepest concerns and desires, and majesty, providing little bits of insight into who He is and how He works. God doesn’t operate like an ATM and we can’t expect Him to do so. To expect that would deny God His very essence. So this week let’s bring our naked hearts before God, visceral and real, and let’s expect Him to answer, but answer in a way that only an infinite and boundless God can.