by Stuart McAllister
Mark Twain once said that faith is “believing what you know ain’t so.” The Christian story presents an altogether different definition. Faith is more than cognitive assent or blind acceptance of something. It is an informed surrender and trust that rests the whole person on the purposes and will of God. Faith involves belief, obedience, ethics, and lifestyle; it involves living with vision and memory.
The prophet Habakkuk lived in a time of spiritual and moral decline, which led to the economic, social, and political tragedies of his people. Like the people to whom he preached, Habakkuk came from a storied nation. He was rooted in his God and all of the stories that accompanied Him—the Exodus, the tabernacle, the law, and the land. Habakkuk knew that all of Israel’s blessings were rooted in the covenantal faithfulness of a chosen people. They had come a long way since rejoicing over the miracle at the Red Sea or the completion of Solomon’s temple. Yet Israel was established with the necessity of living in the three dimensions of time—past, present, and future. They were commanded to remember God’s words and mighty actions of history. They were called to see life as a present blessing, with faith and justice as a response to the God who gave it. And they lived with hope in God’s good hands, such that neither death nor the future was a threat.
But Israel forgot. Neglecting their heritage, the people walked away. They pursued other loves and became enamored with the nations around them. Israel forgot their high calling, and the consequences were tragic. The prophet Habakkuk was understandably grieved. Unable to understand what was happening to his community, the prophet walked through stages of depression, anger, acceptance, and faith. His chapters move from asking “why?” to expressing hopelessness or exclaiming anger, and finally, to singing.
I believe there are times in life when we are on a similar journey. Though at times we may find ourselves stuck in one stage or another, we follow a similar sense of story and invitation to remember God’s involvement in our past, present, and future. Between the pages where Habakkuk cries out for God’s answer and where he ends in a mixture of fear and faith, we learn something of the ambiguity, tension, and struggle that is ours until the journey ends.
Through trial and uncertainty, the apostle Paul encourages us likewise. We are to cling to what we know along the way:
“For in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. And I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” –Romans 8:37-39
Despite seeming triumphs of evil, the people of God continue to discover anew that the promises of God are sure. In the words of the prophet Habakkuk, “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (2:14 ). It is not easy. There are real dangers, costs to bear, and always a demand for perseverance. But ultimately and exclusively, our hope is in God alone. Through faith we live knowing that Christ is who he says he is, remembering that the assurance of his life and death is real, that God enfolds our stories into his own, and Christ is making all things new. Until that day, we watch and wait, living by faith and memory.
Stuart McAllister is regional director of the Americas at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.