The community where I work has recently been touched by two sudden and seemingly senseless deaths. As a trained pastor, I am supposed to have insights on such things that gives healthy perspectives. After all, there is “a time to be born and a time to die” isn’t there?
The church I preached at yesterday in rural Nebraska was typical in many ways, small but with a certain vibrancy and an obvious sense of hope and care for one another. It had a printed bulletin with announcements and information. There was a specific “prayer list” for a dozen or so situations. What struck me was another list. It was just titled “Cancer” and had many names, probably as many as were in attendance at the church that morning. I can only imagine the untold pain behind those names.
The old spiritual sang, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen …” We often live lives of silent pain, living expectantly. But our expectant living is sometimes not for good things in the future, but waiting for the next blow to fall, the next shoe to drop. Dante Gabriel Rossetti expressed the age-old lament of the sailor when he wrote:
And though thy soul sail leagues and leagues beyond—
Still leagues beyond these leagues, there is more sea.
Habakkuk, the Complaining Prophet, lived a life that is virtually unknown to us. He prophesied under the looming threat of the invasion of the ruthless armies of the Babylonian empire from the east. His word from God about this invasion was not comforting, but an assurance that this calamity was coming as a corrective punishment for the nation. The future was disaster in waiting.
At the end of his book, Habakkuk tells of a time of great poverty. No figs, no fruit, no olives, no field crops, no sheep or goats, no cows (3:16).
No nuttin’. (I know that is an impossible double negative. 🙂
But the prophet ends his book with these words:
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights. (3:17-18)
Hannah Hurnard summed this up by combining Scriptures to say:
Make haste, Beloved, be Thou like a hart on mountains spicy sweet;
And I, on those High Places where Thou art will follow on hind’s feet.
Even in times of darkness and despair, we can find joy in praising the Lord. May our thoughts not be on the endless sea of our troubles, but on the God of our salvation.
Nebraska Christian College