But just like those other women, I didn’t get paid until payday. I never once expected anything else. The boss was not going to walk around handing out checks to anyone for work they hadn’t yet done. Yet we kept on working, sure that on Friday afternoon the checks would come out.
I wonder about us sometimes and our expectations of God. We walk by faith and not by sight, Paul said in 2 Cor 5:7. Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him, the writer says in Hebrews 11:6. Yes, God is a rewarder, but not yet. Certainly we receive blessings in this life, but the best this life has to offer is a far cry from the final reward. True faith does not expect Heaven now.
The Psalmist tells us in 33:18 that God will take care of the one who fears him, will, in fact, “deliver his soul in famine.” I probably would never have noticed this forty years ago, but it jumped right out at me the morning I read this psalm. He will save us “in famine”—it doesn’t say we will never have to experience a famine. Paul says we are to “fight the good fight,” 1 Tim 6:12, he doesn’t say God will keep us out of any sort of fight at all. Our faith will be a shield and breastplate for us (Eph 6:16; 1 Thes 5:8), but it won’t be a peace treaty with the Devil.
Habakkuk had a hard time understanding God’s reasoning in this matter. How could a righteous God use a nation even more wicked than His people had become to punish them? We should never act like we can call God on the carpet and tell Him, “Explain yourself!” Habakkuk understood that himself, and God gave him the only answer he really needed, “The just shall live by his faith.”
By the end of the book Habakkuk knew that didn’t mean no one would die. He knew it didn’t mean they wouldn’t experience horrible things. And we shouldn’t expect that either. Despite what so many preach about “health and wealth” to the true believer, this world is not Heaven and God never promised it would be. He simply promised understanding for what we are experiencing and the help to get through it.
It is for us to come to the conclusion Habakkuk finally did in a paean to hope that explains how we all make it through tough times, not just me and my problems, or you and yours, but each of us in the life we have before us and its own peculiar trials and tribulations. We wait, as he did, for the troubles to come—and they will—and we rejoice.
I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:16-19