Recently, one of my friends told me that she felt that her word for the New Year was "trust." She said she would try not to focus on worrying about the future but trust that she is in God’s hands. As we discussed the challenges of learning to trust and letting go and let God, I wondered what sort of word would describe my new year. A couple of mornings later at 5 A.M., I had my answer. Out of a dead sleep I awoke to the word "reveal." This year would be a year of revelation. Would my time of waiting bear fruit? Would God give me a glimpse of my bigger purpose and direction in ministry? How much longer would I have to wait? With these questions swirling in my head, I went back to the biblical text of Habakkuk to see what could be learned from the prophet as he waited on God.
There are only 3 chapters in the book of Habakkuk but they are filled with discussions between God and the prophet regarding injustices and laments about Israel's disobedience and God’s failure to rescue them from their enemies. The prophet asked God how long they must wait for God’s rescue and he even challenged God to respond. God does respond. God instructs him to wait for the “vision” (2:2-3), which would be revealed in God’s time. Like the prophet, there are times when we are frustrated with the waiting and not satisfied with getting the answers we want in the time we want them. And like Habakkuk, we want to voice and lament our thoughts and even challenge God to hurry up and give us an answer. This back and forth repartee between God and us is a working and respectful relationship. As most of us have experienced relationships are messy. There are times of love, arguing, disappointment, anger, forgiveness and encouragement that is experienced in any relationship. It is the same way with our relationship with God. Like the prophet’s experience, the answers we get are not always timely, pretty or pleasant and sometimes they are difficult and push us out of our comfort zone. But what stands out to me in this text is the prophet’s reaction to the waiting for God’s response. Despite the “calamity” that he speaks of in 3:16, there is hope in God’s faithfulness to answer. In the text, Habakkuk promised to “wait quietly,” but he also rejoices in the hope that God will deliver. He sings in 3:17-18,
“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.
The prophet is joyful despite everything that has gone wrong. Isn’t that a bit backwards? Why should we be grateful and rejoice when things go wrong or when the future is uncertain? Often we fret about the unknown or fear the calamity in our own lives. If we follow the prophet’s example and practice gratitude for what happens tomorrow, today, I think our focus would be on trusting God, who is already at work creating our vision and preparing the hearts of the people who are waiting for us. If we trust God and offer prayers of thankfulness as we wait, we will not be focused on everything we need to “do” to make things happen instead of waiting for God’s timing and purpose. The waiting gives us time to allow God to transform us so that we will be ready when the time comes to embrace God’s vision for the future. So I am going to give thanks for the unknown and trust that God will reveal the vision in the year ahead.