When bad things happen, people on the outside will often say unhelpful things. As I’ve walked with people through pain and heartache, I have noticed that these phrases are often more about bringing comfort to the speaker than they are about comforting the afflicted. People want to attach rhyme or reason to pain and suffering by saying things like, “Everything happens for a reason.”
While people mean well, these words are not comforting to those walking through unimaginable grief. It does nothing to help the mother who has lost a child or the wife who has lost a spouse. There are times when terrible things happen, and there is no good reason. There is no one to blame. Things just happen.
It can be a scary thought to feel the world around us is out of control. I don’t have a reason for why bad things happen, but God did plan for our suffering. Death and destruction were not a part of his original design. God made us free agents, and when sin entered the world, so did the forces of chaos. These forces are at work in our world bringing pain and death, but we, Christians, know the end of the story. Death does not have the final word.
This week, the book of Habakkuk starts with a lament. He is searching for reasons and crying out to God. He is not like the prophets. He’s not rebuking Israel. His dialogue is with God. There is violence around him, and yet God is not saving them. He wants to know where God is in the midst of the violence and tragedy of his day. He is searching for a reason. He believes in God’s sovereignty and control, but he cannot make sense of wrongdoing around him. It is almost as if he wants to believe that everything happens for a reason.
Unlike Habakkuk, we live on the other side of the Gospel story. We know that we will have trials and tribulation, but Jesus has already overcome the world. While there are forces of death and destruction in our world, God is there weaving something beautiful in its wake. Things might not go as we hope or plan; there is violence all around us; but God is ultimately in control of how the story ends.
While the book of Habakkuk starts as a lament, it ends with hope.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 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.