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,
Day Twenty-Six: A Morning Conversation With King Solomon
A conversation that happened this morning as I came upon a visitor in our fireplace room….
Day Nineteen: God Chose Her, Not You
The doctrine of God’s rule and reign in and over all things comes crashing into the human conception of the self-made man. We are tempted to think we have so much to do with our happinesses. But the wisdom found from James speaks a wakefulness into the pondering of our circumstances—the good gifts we have come not from our own hands, but by the grace and providence of our heavenly Father. And the wisdom of Solomon makes clear—one of man’s greatest gifts is something only God can give, an understanding wife.
Day Seventeen: The Great Gain Of Godly Contentment
We live in a world where the temptation is constant to believe the amount of our wealth and possessions directly translates to our joy and happiness. The Bible, once again, confronts our culture and holds out another possibility. Namely, “better” does not imply “more,” “bigger,” or “expensive.” It suggests that the reason you still haven’t found what you are looking for is because you’ve been searching in all the wrong places. Wisdom opens our eyes and hearts to deeper wells of contentment.
Day Fifteen: I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me
I always feel like somebody's watching me. And I have no privacy. Woh, I always feel like somebody's watching me. Tell me is it just a dream? So sang Rockwell in the dawning of my high school years back in 1984. All the cool kids were singing it at the time, and its the tune that sprang to mind when I read this similar sentiment this morning: Yahweh is watching everywhere, keeping his eye on both the evil and the good. (Proverbs 15:3, New Living Translation)
Day Fourteen: Death By Living
For those of us desirous to live a good life, we’ve known since the very beginning of this book that it begins with a healthy awe, reverence, and trembling before the God of the universe whose name is Yahweh (Proverbs 1:7). And here we are again reminded that this humble posture before the Holy One is a fountain overflowing with life.
Day Thirteen: You Can’t Always Get What You Want
One of the key assumptions we’ve been working with as we make our way through the wisdom literature is that God has hardwired wisdom into the way creation (and the creatures within it…us) operates. It was there at the beginning. It’s the inner logic of everything, and the secret code for how it works. (see Proverbs 8:22-31)
Day Eleven: A Pig Is Still A Pig
Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion. (Proverbs 11:22, English Standard Version) “Well…I never!” she replied to the King. Reading this proverb, it seems highly probable to me, given the stories of King Solomon and all the women in his life (1 Kings 11:3), that this was probably a proverb born from experience. He comes along a beautiful woman, of high social standing, of influence and power; but in his interactions with her, he begins to see her true self shining through all her external adornments. She has no discretion—she is a woman of loose and dissolute conversation, her mind and conscience are defiled. There’s a beauty for the eye, but the corruption of her character slowly transforms how Solomon sees her, and no amount of jewelry will cover that up.
Day Twenty-Nine: Please—Quietly Hold Your Tongue
Anger. noun. “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” (New Oxford American Dictionary) As I entered day twenty-nine of Proverbs this morning, and came to 29:11, it struck me that this book has quite a bit to say about anger, strife, wrath, quarreling, fights, and rage. It is a theme that Solomon keeps coming back to, probably because he knows that it is a theme woven through humanity and history. Sometimes the best way to see a theme is to pull on that string so all the wisdom he has offered comes together for our observation. The accumulation helps us feel the weight of it.