Habakkuk is one of the more succinct prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures. He thinks the world is pretty much of a disaster at the time he’s writing. I’d summarize his brief story this way:
Habakkuk: WTF? Seriously?
God: Wait for it.
Here’s the thing, God doesn’t say that Habakkuk (let’s call him HK from now on) is waiting for a five star meal and a cushy retirement. At the end of the book, HK basically says, even though I might starve, “I will rejoice in the Lord.”
What could inspire someone to say that? No fruit, no olives, no flock, no herd—not usually the moment people throw their hands in the air and shout, “Hallelujah!” But that’s what HK says he’s planning to do, no matter what.
HK is apparently a little more stable than I am. Some things that throw me off of the whole rejoicing in the Lord thing with remarkable ease and blistering speed: missing a deadline at work, wondering what my purpose in the world is, letting food spoil in the fridge (yes, seriously, planetary destruction starts with one rotten jicama).
Abraham Heschel suggests that HK sensed God and so encountered “infinite goodness, infinite wisdom, infinite beauty” (The Prophets, p. 183). That sounds good. I could go for that, preferably not while starving.
HK would tell me to get over the “preferably” part, that starving or not starving is not the most important thing. That doesn’t mean God wants us to starve. It does mean there’s something else going on all the time that we’re often not paying attention to.
Jim Finley says, “God protects us from nothing while sustaining us in all things.” According to that master of etymology dictionary.com, “sustain” comes from a word that meant “hold” or “uphold.” We are held in goodness, wisdom, and beauty all the time, regardless of our outer circumstances, regardless of whether or not we notice.
I react to this idea with resistance, but think how much it might transform our lives if we really, really believed it, if we took HK seriously. That’s why you have to watch out for prophets.