What can we do when in despair? When situations seem too much to handle, when life seems too hard, when problems seem like they are only going to get worse, when people hurt us, offend us, and don't treat us like they should, what can we do?
These were Habakkuk's very complaints in Habakkuk 1. He looked at the nation of Judah and saw that sin was everywhere, that no one cared about God, and (it appeared to Habakkuk) that God didn't care. Habakkuk's prayers weren't answered, his advice wasn't taken, and he was ready to despair. But God came to Habakkuk with a message:
I am working even when you don't see it
God is working, even when we don't see Him working. He is working in ways we may not expect. He is working on a timetable that isn't always ours. God is working even when we don't see it.
I understand this on a human level. For instance, I am confident when I leave the house and hit "start" on the dishwasher that, when I come home, the dishes will be clean. The dishwasher works even when I don't see or hear it working.
I believe this about dishwashers, but why do I have such a tough time believing this about God?
One big part of the problem is that I live off of my emotions. What I feel is what I believe. I act out on my feelings. When situations or people cause me to despair, I can tend to live in my feelings instead of on the truth.
Example: Let's say I pray for an unsaved friend every day for a month. Let's say, then, that at the end of the month, he remains unsaved. My emotions begin to work--sadness, anxiety, maybe even despair. My emotions weigh down on me, telling me that it is hopeless and that it isn't worth it to pray anymore.
Rather than listening to my emotions, I need to read and believe the truth of God's Word. I need to believe that God is sovereign and in control. I need to believe that God wants us to pray--and pray faithfully and consistently. I need to believe that God loves me and is working out all things for His glory.
Habakkuk is at this point. He is ready to give in. He is ready to stop believing God and is ready to let his emotions call the shots. What does God tell him?
"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." (Habakkuk 1:5)
Habakkuk is going to be utterly amazed by what God is going to do. So much so, that he wouldn't even be able to believe it.
God often uses times of hardship and despair to break us. That doesn't come off sounding very loving, but in fact, the reverse is true. It is very loving. As He breaks us, He causes us to become more dependent on Him. We recognize our need of Him.
Three reasons to be still and draw near to God (and not live by emotions) in times of despair:
1. Transformation--God will make you look more like Jesus through the time of despair. He will teach you new things about Himself. He will convict you of sin that allows your worship of Him to be deeper and purer. He will give you a new capacity for love, peace, and joy.
2. Intimacy--Isn't it times like this that draw us closer to God? Unfortunately, I have not gone to God in every trial in my life. Too often, I've just wallowed in my emotions. But when I do wait on the Lord and draw near to Him, there are unparalleled times of growth. He breaks you and makes you realize how much you need Him. How much you need Him for victory over sin, for faith, for hope, for deliverance, for life.
3. Testimony--When God lifts you out of the despair, whether the way you thought He would or not, you will have testimony/ministry to share with others of what God has done for you. You will be able to proclaim His glory.