Why?  Those who have spent any time around a three-year old have heard this many times.  It seems to be a nearly unending cycle as each explanation is greeted with yet another ‘why?’ No matter how thorough or correct your previous answer, it never quite satisfies the inquisitive toddler.

In some ways and to some extent, we can all be like this youngster, especially when we are faced with the reality of bad things happening to good people.  Why did this or that happen? They didn’t deserve that.  Why is it, that good folks are being subjected to random acts of nastiness? Similarly, we ask why did the non-smoker develop lung cancer or the health conscious person have a heart attack?

I’m not saying any of us are wrong in asking these types of questions, especially if the wrong in question is something that needs to be brought into the light of justice.  I am also aware that by merely asking these questions, some people can begin to find an amount of healing from whatever has brought the question of why about.  However, I am also aware of the opposite.  If a person is in a place where all they do is ask the why question, seeking some definitive answer,  the suffering involved remains an unbroken loop.

I am not putting myself above any of this.  I certainly have asked this question often in the various seasons of my life when faced with difficult situations.  If you’ve read of my struggle with God pertaining to my Dad’s long decline of health, you know how I felt.  If ever there was a good guy who didn’t deserve his lot, it was him.

Blessedly, God ministered to me then in such a way at the end of my Dad’s life that I can not only empathize with people who are hurting, I can share the strength that God gave me so that they too can find the peace that He offers us all.

There are many places in the Bible where God makes His strength available to us.  For today, let’s consider the Prophet Habakkuk.  You will find this short book nestled between the writings of Nahum and Zephaniah toward the end of the Old Testament. Please take the time to read the three chapters of Habakkuk to familiarize/reacquaint with what he has to say.

This book is different from all the other prophetic books in that Habakkuk records just a discussion he has with God.  He didn’t have a word given to him to speak to the people of that time nor did he proclaim some judgment of God on them, as so many of the other recorded prophets did.  He simply lays out his case before God, asking why things are happening the way they are, and then he writes down what God says in answer to him.  Habakkuk asked God the same type of ‘why’ questions that we still ask today.

See if some of what he said to God isn’t applicable today:

How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? 3 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. (Habakkuk 1:2-3. Emphasis added)

As we are faced with the real question of why bad things are happening to good people in our day, let’s look at this conversation Habakkuk had with God.  As we do, it is my hope we can all come to a better place of understanding of the answer to the many ‘whys’ in our lives.

The Expositor’s Commentary helps to explain what Habakkuk is saying: “Violence” denotes flagrant violation of moral law by which a person injures primarily one’s fellow human beings. Its underlying meaning is one of ethical wrong, of which physical brutality is only one possible expression.

These same types of things were happening in Habakkuk’s world that are in ours.  The Prophet was looking for answers and went to the ultimate ‘source’ in hopes of finding them.

In response to the first set of why questions, God simply tells Habakkuk they He is going to do something amazing.  It will be so wondrous that Habakkuk won’t be able to believe it.  However, this ‘big picture’ answer doesn’t satisfy the prophet.  He asks God again:

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.  Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? (Habakkuk 1:13 emphasis added)

In Chapter 2 God once again answers Habakkuk.  This time God is speaks more plainly, telling the prophet he can be assured that those who do evil will meet their just reward at a future time.

Though this might not be the specific answer Habakkuk, or we, might want in our own personal circumstance, it is one that we can trust in.  Habakkuk then shows us how we can do this in a way that can provide comfort in the face of delayed answers to our why questions.  The key is to shift our primary focus from us and place it on God.  Here’s how he did it:

LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. (Habakkuk 3:2)

By doing so, he takes strength in the greatness of God, whose fame reaches to heaven and whose mighty works are awe-inspiring.  The Prophet recognizes that God is greater than any circumstance, and that keeping the focus on Him will allow Habakkuk to navigate the difficult times of life.

The same applies to us: We must transfer our primary focus from us and put it on God.  This won’t magically make our problems go away, but it will give us a healthier perspective with which to see them.  If we can acknowledge that God has always been in control, we can better accept that He still is, even when the stakes are personally high for us.  This can allow us to gain trust in God’s providence.

This is the comfort God has made known to me.  Though my specific requests may not have been answered in the way I thought were best, God has continued to show His faithfulness by the way He has chosen to do so.  He is in control, whether I choose to see it or not.  This includes my accepting that not all of my why questions will get answered. His past record is perfect, I can trust that His current and future handling of things will be as well!