Why do Christians suffer? Why is there injustice in the world?
Why is violence all around us? Why does God allow evil people to
torment the righteous? These are difficult questions to answer,
but God has preserved the answer in His word.
Habakkuk was a prophet of God who witnessed the return of Judea
to evil practices. He lived about twenty-five hundred years ago
and cried out to the Lord with concerns of suffering, injustice,
violence, and evil. Through a study of God's answer to Habakkuk
along with New Testament Scriptures, we can understand God's answer
to our questions concerning suffering, violence, and evil.
Habakkuk's first question was: "Oh Lord, how long shall I
cry, and you will not hear? Even cry out to you, 'Violence!' And
You will not save. Why do you show me iniquity, and cause me to
see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is
strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, and
justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous;
therefore perverse judgment proceeds" (Hab. 1:2-4).
Perhaps you have had questions similar to Habakkuk's. Does God
hear my prayers crying out for justice and relief from suffering?
Why must I live around iniquity (lawlessness) and all kinds of trouble?
Why must I live around violence, strife, and contention? Why is
God's law seemingly powerless since governing authorities have turned
from the Lord? Why must I be surrounded by wicked people? Why does
God allow the perverse judgments of evil people to effect me?
God's first answer to Habakkuk is that He is raising up a nation
to punish the wicked. God said: "Look among the nations and
watch - be utterly astonished! For I will work a work in your days
which you would not believe, though it were told you. For indeed
I am raising up the Chaldeans, a bitter and hasty nation which marches
through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling places that
are not theirs" (Hab. 2:5-6). God continues to explain that
the Chaldeans were a terrible, dreadful, fierce, and violent nation
that imputed their power to their idols and not to God Almighty.
Today, we are reminded by the apostle Peter that God is coming
to bring judgment upon those who are evil. He said: "knowing
this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according
to their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming?
For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were
from the beginning of creation.' . . . But beloved, do not forget
this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years,
and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning
His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward
us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come
to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:3-9).
We must understand that suffering and violence will be present
in the last days and that God will bring judgment upon the evil
persons who had lived upon the earth. He is longsuffering because
He does not desire anyone to perish, but He will bring judgment
upon the world and punish those who have not come to repentance.
Concerning our individual responsibility while living among the
wicked, Paul said: "Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard
for good things in the sight of all men If it is possible, as much
as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not
avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written,
'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. 'Therefore if
your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for
in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' Do not be
overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:17-21).
Next week we will review Habakkuk's second question and God's response.
Until then, think about what this means: "Behold the proud,
his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith"