Do you look around at all of the trouble in this world and wonder how to deal with it all? Are you looking for ways to turn to God and find rest in all of this strife? To know that God is still in control when it seems like the world is falling apart?
Friends, can I let you in on a secret?
I have a favorite word in the Bible. It’s not one of the typical (although amazing!!) words that you might find like grace, hope, or salvation.
My favorite word is one that many scholars even debate what its true meaning exactly is. It’s a word that honestly describes my relationship with the Lord. It’s SELAH!
The word selah is found 74 times in the Bible; 71 of those are in the book of Psalms and the other 3 are in the short but prophetic book of Habakkuk. Some people have said its meaning is related to the Hebrew word “sala” which means “to make light of” but many studies say it derives from the word “salal” which means “to praise or exalt” or “to lift up” in a musical sense. And yet some scholars believe it has to do with speaking in tongues. Since the word selah is found most often in the book of Psalms, many believe it symbolized a time to pause, to reflect on what was being said and to turn our praise back to God and lift His holy name.
I think of it as a time to pause, be silent and give my heart to God. To find rest in Him from the hustle of this world. It is a time I can set aside all noise and distractions and praise God, to exalt Him for all He has done and continues to do. Do you want to learn more about how to find rest in God? Check out this post I wrote: Be Still – 3 Important Ways God Blesses You in the Silence.
As I was reading recent news of one of the horrific school shootings, I turned to the book of Habakkuk to see that the prophet Habakkuk was asking God many of the same questions that we may be asking today during these times of distress in our nation:
How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?” Hab 1:2 (NIV)
We see Habakkuk feeling some of the same emotions that we are feeling. Despair, confusion, anger. Asking God some very difficult questions.
Why, God, are you allowing this?
GOD’S SILENCE & FREE WILL
Why does it appear that evil is winning the fight? It seems that way, doesn’t it? Like evil and violence have the upper hand. Looking in from the outside it seems as if God was silent, doing nothing.
And Habakkuk thought the same thing. As a prophet, Habakkuk prophesied that God would allow Judah’s enemies (the Babylonians) to overtake them to bring about appropriate punishment for the evil that Judah had turned to. Not understanding the “why’s,” the prophet turned his heart and his concerns to God.
And God responds resolutely!
GOD IS ALWAYS AT WORK
You see, God loves His people, and while sometimes He allows bad things to happen… it is NEVER His will. He gave us free will and ultimately the choices we make, and the consequences of those choices, lead to some of these horrible things that are happening.
He is always working behind the scenes to bring about good. For good to come out of tragic events that break our hearts. Scripture reminds us of this in the book of Habakkuk in which we see God’s very poignant response to the prophet:
Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” Hab 1:5 (NIV)
WAITING IS HARD
God tells Habakkuk to wait, be patient and trust all that He is doing. While Habakkuk believes God’s promises, he finds it difficult, and poses another set of questions to the Lord.
Habakkuk reminds his heart of who God is: “the everlasting.” He calls out to God, “my Rock.” He questions again, “Why God?”
Honestly, it’s our human nature to question God and His sovereignty. We believe, yet we question. Our hearts belong to Him, but we are still in this world and don’t understand. It can be difficult to truly believe that God is working behind the scenes when we are unable to physically see what He is doing.
FAITH TAKES OVER
Or when what we see is contrary to that goodness. And that is where our faith must come in.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Rom 8:28 (NIV)
With that, we see God’s very poignant response to the prophet Habakkuk. God tells him, “Yes, your prophecy is true.” The enemy will prevail for this short time, BUT… and it’s a huge BUT.
But the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.” Hab 2:4 (NIV)
Then the Lord goes on in detail about the sins of His people and tells Habakkuk the reasons why this is happening. Arrogance, greed, murder, scheming, injustice, drunkenness and impurity. The list goes on. And it makes both us and Habakkuk stop and think, “WOW! Truth.” Our hearts are filled with wrongdoing. And the very last line in His response is convicting but rooted in Sovereign humility.
The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” Hab 2:20 (NIV)
RESTING IN GOD
And as Habakkuk remembers WHO God is, he does what we as a nation and a people of God must do in the light of these tragedies:
Turn our hearts to God in prayer.
Rest in Him and His promises and lift our prayers and exalt the One who is in control of each day. Habakkuk finds rest in God, asking Him to be merciful in Habakkuk 3:2 (NIV):
LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.”
He continues in his beautiful prayers, exalting God, praising Him for His glory and splendor. And then He reminds himself (and us!) that God will deliver His people from evil. God will save us from these terrifying times. And Habakkuk prays that while he may not understand, he chooses to rejoice in the Lord. He chooses to make God his strength during this tragic time.
IT’S OK TO HAVE QUESTIONS
What can we take away from this great prophet?
What similarities are there between his life so long ago and ours today?
While the circumstances are different, we are able to see many parallels if we stop to think about it. Habakkuk saw evil all around him and questioned God. He questioned what seemed like His silence and inaction. He asked the hard questions and he dealt with the hard emotions. It is ok for us to do the same.
REMEMBER WHO GOD IS
We all process tragedy and grief differently.
Like Habakkuk, we must remember to rest in God as our strength. Selah. To place our trust in Him despite the circumstances around us. Choose to praise Him and exalt him in our prayers even though we may not understand. And we must remember that sometimes His work behind the scenes remains invisible until the appointed time.
Because, after all… He is God! And His plans are better than our own.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Is 55:8-11 (NIV)
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you that you are in control and know exactly what we need in our lives. We lift your name and praise you for who you are. Help us to find rest in you alone. Comfort us in our grief and our confusion, letting us know that you continue to walk through these scary times right beside us. Let us walk by our faith, resting in your promises. In Jesus’ name. Amen.