When Doubts Assail


“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)

Read: Habakkuk 1-2:5

Have you ever gone through a season so painful and discouraging that you started to doubt what God was doing? If you haven’t, you likely will someday. Scripture records many instances when God’s people experienced doubt—from David in many of his psalms to those believers address in the letter to the Hebrews. Left unattended, doubts can cause us to become entitled, impatient, angry, distressed, take our eyes off of eternity, and forget just who our God is.

Habakkuk lived during a time of great spiritual and moral darkness in Judah. Though they were God’s people, Habakkuk describes the nation unfavorably in verses 3-4:

Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.

Habakkuk 1:3-4

Israel’s possession of God’s very law separated them from the other nations. When followed, their obedience and wisdom would cause the other nations to take notice of that good law. In Habakkuk’s time, however, no one was following the law or enforcing its justice. Habakkuk’s first question is: “Where are you Lord? Why aren’t you hearing your people’s cries for justice?”

Maybe you’ve looked around at the world today and wondered the same thing? How long, O Lord? How can wickedness go unpunished, and in many cases lead to prosperity for those who practice it? These are the same doubts that Asaph had in Psalm 73:3-15: how are the wicked thriving while God’s righteous ones are suffering at their hands? As Asaph realized, and as the Lord tells Habakkuk in 1:5-11, the answer is that the wicked will come to an end. They may be prosperous in this life, but, as the author of Hebrews writes, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb 9:27). Application? Trust in the Lord’s timing. For Habakkuk, that time of judgment was coming in the form of Babylon, which the Lord himself was raising up for the specific purpose of disciplining his wayward people. Don’t doubt, don’t fret, don’t forget. God sees everything—from the greatest injustice to the smallest—and vengeance is his. He will repay (Rom 12:19). Wait and trust in his good timing.

The problem Habakkuk had was with God’s chosen instrument to discipline Judah. “Really? Babylon?” As Habakkuk rightly describes in verses 14-16, Babylon was one of the most—if not the most—wicked nations on the planet. Therefore, Habakkuk’s second question is, “How can a holy God use such wicked people to accomplish his purposes? Are you sure, God? How can you use this nation? Sure, Judah is bad, but Babylon is even worse” (see v. 13). As God is in complete control of his creation and working all things out to that glorious end we read about in Revelation 21-22, you might look around and ask the same questions. “God, why are you doing things this way?” You might even get bold enough to think or ask, “Wouldn’t it be better if God does it this or that way?” Habakkuk doesn’t go that far, but he’s still doubting the Lord’s judgment and ends this second round of questioning by saying he’s going to watch and see and listen (2:1). How will God answer?

Though God does not owe Habakkuk, nor us, an answer, he graciously provides one in 2:2-5 (and really the rest of chapter two). Though Babylon is going to be used by God as a rod of discipline on his people, Babylon’s wickedness isn’t going to go unpunished, either, and all of this will come to pass according to God’s perfect judgment and timing. Therefore, Habakkuk—and the ones who read his prophecy—wait and trust in the Lord by faith. Don’t become puffed up thinking that the Lord is blind to what is going on or that you know better than the One who created, sustains, and is working all things to their perfect end. The truly righteous live by faith.

As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” When we look around and wonder at all the injustice in the world, when we go through a trial because we live in this fallen world, or if we are suffering because of our faith in Christ, our reaction cannot be to doubt—at least not for long. Look at how Habakkuk ends his book:

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 3:17-19

Though his situation may get worse, though he may not have food, though all of his prosperity may vanish, though from the outside world’s perspective all hope seems to be lost, Habakkuk will rejoice in Yahweh. Why? Because he was reminded of who God is. He is the saving, merciful, all-powerful God who tenderly cares and looks after his people. Likewise, we need to consistently be in the Word, being reminded just who our God is.

“When doubt and fear assail me,
And bend my spirit low,
I know there is a Saviour,
To whom I e’er can go;
He’s promised to be with me,
No matter what betide;
Till some day when he’ll call me
To sit down at his side.”[1]

Discuss and Pray Together: Talk about the times that you have doubted God. How did God work through that, and how were you reminded of God’s goodness?  Finish by praying for one another, particularly if any of you have any current doubts or fears.

[1] Payn A. A. and C. Austin Miles, “I’ll Wait,” 1906.

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