We live in a world under a curse (Genesis 3:14-19).
And that is an easy thing to forget.
I remember my first trip out of the country. I had the privilege to serve on a short-term missions team that would bring encouragement to some people in northern Cameroon, as well as teach the book of Hebrews in a seminary located in the city of Ndu. Our team was made up of three Americans, and one native Cameroonian. And before the teaching, because of our Cameroonian team member, we had the opportunity to visit some very small, remote villages. It was a shocking experience, as I had never come into close contact with truly difficult living conditions.
A short time later, we were all staying in a hotel in the town of Bamenda. While resting in our room together (because it had air conditioning!), I remember reflecting with my new Cameroonian friend my amazement at the people of Cameroon. Namely, despite the incredibly hard life they were faced with on a daily basis, they had so much joy. They expressed so much generosity of spirit. They were a constant encouragement. And I struggled to understand how that was possible.
His answer was profound.
“Matthew, in America, you wake up every day with the expectation that things are going to go well for you, that things will be great, everything will go well and smoothly. So that when it doesn’t go according to plan, you are easily upset, frustrated, and unhappy. In Africa, we wake up every day with the expectation that things will not go well, and life will be hard. So that when there is some little bright spot, it is easy to be joyful, thankful, and happy.”
In other words, they woke up every day understanding that the world is under a curse. All creation is fundamentally handicapped, hamstrung, and hampered. That is an easy thing for Americans to forget. And that forgetfulness which leads to unrealistic expectations makes handling the bad circumstances — especially really bad circumstances — that we find ourselves in all the more difficult.
For, how can a good God allow, or even plan, really bad things to happen to ‘good’ people? How can a sovereign God stand by and do nothing? Doesn’t he care? Why does he tolerate such circumstances? Why does he, at times, seem absent?
These are the kinds of questions that all of us, at one time or another, have asked.
So, what do we do when faced with such situations and our questions? How do we live?
In the book of Habakkuk, we find a shining example of what it looks like to faithfully wrestle with God when life is hard. We see and hear a man who is bold, clear, honest, and open with very raw emotions and sometimes shocking language. But we also see a man who never, ever, never gives up on God as part of the solution; he never walks away from God. That’s not even an option on the table.
The book of Habakkuk has a very clear message to deliver when it comes to making it through those bad parts of our lives, and, actually, the good parts as well. An answer for how to truly live.
If you’d like to learn more about that, I encourage you to listen to my sermon on the book of Habakkuk. And for further study on this frank conversation between Habakkuk and his God, head over to our friends at The Bible Project. There you will find videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on this book, as well as all the books found in The Whole Story of God (which we call the Bible).
Finally, just a reminder that this coming Sunday we will turn our attention to Zephaniah. Be sure to read it a few times this week (since it is only three chapters long) so that you may come with a ready and expectant heart as we gather together Sunday morning at 10:30am at Calvary.
Living by Faith Alongside You,
We’ve been on quite a journey through the pre-exilic prophets in our Whole Story sermon series. I’ve heard from so many of how much God is teaching and revealing to you through these books that few of us have spent any substantial time studying. For my part, I have come to a place of now counting these as some of my favorite portions of Scripture, that I will come back to again and again.
“Do you really believe in the ‘God of the Old Testament’? I mean, he seems so ticked off all the time! All that vengeance, and wrath, and anger. All those times where he orders the extermination of whole cities, and sometimes wipes them out himself (see Sodom and Gomorrah).
Watch as the young Beck men proclaim their love for Jesus as they obey his command to be baptized.
All My Hope
One of the things I LOVE about being a pastor at Calvary is some of the amazing people I get to serve with every day. A couple of those are our worship pastor, Matt Faulkner, and one of his worship leaders, Christy Freeman.
On Easter Sunday, the Calvary family got to witness God working in the lives of two men who publicly affirmed their faith through baptism. It was a joy to see!
I think one of the challenges to reading through The Whole Story of the Bible is to keep reminding ourselves that the people involved were very real people dealing with really crucial and often difficult circumstances. For example, we have now arrived at a sobering word from Yahweh through the prophet Micah.