Last week we explored the story of the prophet Habakkuk in our "Rebuilding After Disaster" sermon series. To give the spark notes version, Habakkuk confronts God and asks why a righteous and justice-oriented God could possibly be allowing all of the blatant injustices and unrighteous acts in the world. I don't blame Habakkuk. I've been asking some of those same questions lately and so have a lot of my friends as well. Those outside our walls are even asking this question, and in the long run I think that will be a good thing that they ask those questions. We as the church can learn from them as they ask those hard questions. God's answer is a tough pill to swallow. He tells Habakkuk that even though, yes, there are terrible things going on, God is still in control and bringing justice. So he tells Habakkuk to wait. Habakkuk as a finite human being just can't see the infinite God's wisdom. Through this, Habakkuk finds that even amidst all of this, he really has no choice but to live by faith amidst the waiting.
For someone who is justice-motivated, this sucks. It sucks that God cannot be a magic wand and fix everything for the thousands and even millions people who are living in horrific circumstances. It sucks that all types of -isms are thriving and the imago dei that resides in every human being is not being recognized by privileged and power groups in society, especially here in America. When you're living amidst America suburbia, waiting doesn't seem so bad. We get to relax with cable TV, Applebee's meals, and easy access to most if not all of our immediate needs. That's not to say that there still aren't emotional and psychological struggles, but rather that those of us in privilege can usually see a way out of our struggles. On the other than, telling Syrian refugees to wait or any group of people who continually face personal and systemic discrimination to wait and that God will make everything right in the end? That sucks. This doesn't mean that we don't work to alleviate the immediate suffering. We do. As people following Jesus, we must. But it means that we have to accept that we're not a Savior. It means we can't fix everything. Thus, this is the "hate" part of my relationship with Habakkuk. I hate it that sometimes suffering is a major part of a person's life.
While it is difficult to tell people to have faith during this time, what else can we say? This is why I love Habakkuk. God makes it abundantly clear that our Creator sees the suffering and will redeem every last part of it. God will wipe away every tear and we can trust that the God who has taken us this far will run with us toward the finish line. I love that we can take our burdens to God and that God hears us. Habakkuk shows that it is okay and even appropriate to look at injustice and yell, "WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?!" But God is remarkably justice-motivated. More than any human being ever could be or has been. God will bring more justice than we could ever dream of, but in order for that to happen there will be injustice in the meantime. We have all gone astray, and for God's justice to fully reign, we have to learn hard lessons.
So, yes, we hate to wait, but we most love to have faith in the waiting. And even when we don't love it, we recognize that God is still with us and guides us back firmly yet gently toward faith.