Scottish pastor George Matheson wrote the following about the occasion for his hymn “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go”: “My hymn was composed in the manse of Inellan on the evening of June 6, 1882. I was at that time alone. It was the day of my sister’s marriage. . . . Something had happened to me which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruit of that suffering.” Matheson’s painful experience was likely the decision of his fiancée to call off their engagement. He was going blind, and she told him she didn’t want to be married to a blind man.
This month we have examined lament when life is painful, lament for loved ones and enemies, and lament over sin. For the next few days, we’ll explore lament when we don’t understand what God is doing.
The book of Habakkuk contains one of the most remarkable conversations between God and a prophet. It begins with Habakkuk’s complaint: “How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” (1:2). The Lord answers that He will repay the injustice in Judah with oppression from the Babylonians. But this raises another question from Habakkuk: “Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (1:13). The Lord responds by chronicling Judah’s idolatry and evil, detailing how the people have in fact not been found righteous.
In our reading today, Habakkuk responds in prayer. He still has questions, but he also has faith in who God is—the Lord of power and justice and mercy. And this confidence in God emboldens him to conclude that, even though difficult days lie ahead, he will wait patiently on God and praise Him (vv. 16–17).