Habakkuk started his book with a complaint and he ends with a song. It is not a happy song. It’s a song that takes into account all God has promised in his judgment against Judah and Babylon. It is a song of lament as much as it is a song of praise, and it’s a song that teaches us how to follow God in the midst of life’s deepest struggles.
Following God Includes Suffering
Many people think that if they obey God, then life will be easy. In fact, some people believe that obeying God will lead to a life of getting everything they want, including money and good health. This is a lie. It is a powerful lie because most people go through life with a very individualistic perspective. They think the ultimate good for their lives is to be happy, and God wants to fulfill that goal. This simply isn’t true. God never promises a life of prosperity. We have only to turn to Habakkuk’s song to see that.
Habakkuk 3:2 I have heard all about you, Lord. I am filled with awe by your amazing works. In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. And in your anger, remember your mercy.
Remember what is going on in Judah right now. The Babylonians are about to overrun God’s people and carry them off into exile. Both the faithful, like Habakkuk, and the unfaithful are going to get swept up in God’s judgment. God’s people will suffer. Suffering is a theme throughout the Bible. Even Jesus suffered. Jesus lived in poverty, was rejected by his family, deserted by friends, and experienced death on a cross. Christians today need to spend more time pondering these words from Acts:
Acts 14:22 They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.
Christianity is a life of hardship. All your problems won’t be magically solved by becoming a Christian. In fact, you will probably get some new ones. At times, God’s people can feel overwhelmed by their sufferings (see Habakkuk 3:16). The good news is that God will help you through your hardships. In order to grow in suffering, we must understand what following God looks like (Luke 14:27-28).
God Enables You to Have Joy in Suffering
It’s important to point out that Habakkuk 3 ends in joy. This song teaches us how to respond to suffering. Typically, when people face suffering, they bail on God or get mad at him. This is not Habakkuk’s attitude.
Habakkuk 3:17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
Habakkuk knows that his nation faces total destruction. The grocery store will be out of food, and the gas station will be out of gas. Everything in his world is coming undone, yet still Habakkuk will rejoice in God. He won’t allow his circumstances to take away from his joy in the Lord. All Christians can find joy in the midst of their suffering. They know that suffering isn’t the end of the story. This isn’t sadism. Christians don’t want to suffer. It’s that suffering leads to greater joy. This was the experience of Jesus.
Hebrews 12:2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
We can have joy in suffering because it leads to real benefit in our lives. Through suffering, we experience more of God’s presence. We get a better sense of God’s plan for our lives. We focus on what really matters in life, and we get to see God’s power manifested. It was only in the midst of their suffering that God’s people would see him come in power (Habakkuk 3:6).
Suffering shows us that we need a savior
Suffering reminds us that this world is broken and is not our ultimate home. Through brokenness of life, we see how much we need God.
Habakkuk 3:18-19 I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.
Habakkuk’s last hope is in God, and he is a sure place to put your hope. Our suffering reminds us that we need a rescuer in this life, and that God is our rescuer and savior.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- What is your favorite kind of music? Why?
- Why do you think Habakkuk ends his book with a song? Describe some of the things that music has the power to do for people?
- Read Acts 14:22. What kinds of hardships have you experienced as a Christian?
- Read Luke 14:27-28. What does it mean to carry your cross today? What is the cost of following Jesus?
- Read Habakkuk 3:17. How would you describe the prophet’s attitude?
- Read Hebrews 12:2. How can the promise of future joy enable you to endure suffering?
- How would you counsel someone who has been taught, “God only wants you to be happy”?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.