Bible Verses for those who are Grieving

  • Psalm 23:4 ESV
    Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
        I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
        your rod and your staff,
        they comfort me.
  • Psalm 30:5 ESV
    For his anger is but for a moment,
        and his favor is for a lifetime.
    Weeping may tarry for the night,
        but joy comes with the morning.
  • Psalm 34:18 ESV
    The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
        and saves the crushed in spirit.
  • Psalm 73:26 ESV
    My flesh and my heart may fail,
        but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
  • Psalm 119:50 ESV
    This is my comfort in my affliction,
        that your promise gives me life.
  • Psalm 147:3 ESV
    He heals the brokenhearted
        and binds up their wounds.
  • Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV
    Surely he has borne our griefs
        and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
        smitten by God, and afflicted.
    But he was pierced for our transgressions;
        he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
        and with his wounds we are healed.
  • Lamentations 3:31-34 ESV
    For the Lord will not
        cast off forever,
    32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
        according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
    33 for he does not afflict from his heart
        or grieve the children of men.
  • Matthew 5:4 ESV
    Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:52-57 ESV
    in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

    “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
    55 “O death, where is your victory?
        O death, where is your sting?”

    56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV
    For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
  • Revelation 21:4 ESV
    He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

For the days your heart is tender

This week I have teared up in a restaurant and in the basement of our church and in the minivan.

It’s been a bit of a cry-fest frankly.  And it doesn’t stop there.  I’ve been ready to cry over documentaries and books about wars fought between 70 and 150 years ago.

Seriously.  A war documentary made me cry.

I don’t normally consider myself a “cryer,” but this week has been a  week of sad news for those around me.  I mourn with the brokenhearted wife, with the brokenhearted mother, with the brokenhearted family.

And I find my heart a little battered and bruised just by feeling the weight of sorrow:  the divorce, the goodbyes, the mourning, and the prodigals.  It’s been tenderized by a hammer of hurt, so now I’m in need of tissues everywhere I go.

Maybe that’s the way it should be, though.

Not that people should be hurting or going through hard times and not that I need to carry a box of Kleenex with me, but that we should be gentle enough to notice, compassionate enough to care, and tenderhearted enough to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep.

Jesus did that, as He stood just outside his friend Lazarus’s tomb and the Savior and Messiah heard the wails of those in grief.  That’s when we read those two powerful  words:

Jesus wept (John 11:35).

He didn’t wail and scream like those around them.  He wasn’t in despair and He knew He’d see Lazarus walk out of that tomb within a few minutes.

But He felt compassion for the crowd and so His tears fell because these people were hurting and because they felt overwhelmed by deep  sorrow.

Do we weep also?

Do our hearts break at the brokenheartedness around us?

Paul wrote to the Ephesians:

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32 NASB)

May that be us.  Oh, may we be the ones covering others with kindness, forgiveness, and caring.

But if that is us, what then?

Jesus walked right up  to Lazarus’s tomb and demanded resurrection.  He brought life to the dead simply by the power of His words.

As much as I wish I could say the word  and heal the hurts of those around me, mend the marriages, raise the dead, carry the prodigal home, I cannot.   I cannot fix the broken or mend the mess.

But our compassion does still matter.

It propels us into kindness, practical acts that make a difference.

It stirs us to intercession and passionate prayer on the behalf of others.

It compels us to share the heart of Jesus, who wept when others wept.

It emboldens us to share with others the reminder that this is our God:  the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.

That’s what Paul said:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV). 

God’s very character is that of compassion and comfort.  He never wastes the stories of our own pain, those times we ourselves trudged through valleys of hurt or sorrow.   He redeems those hard seasons by carrying us through them and then allowing us to be that comfort and that compassion for others in the future.

And as much as suffering abounds, God’s comfort abounds, too.  He is close in our times of need.

He draws us in.  He hides us away in places of refuge.  He holds our tears in a bottle, never missing even one of them.  He sends others to care for us.

And then He sends us out to care for others.

How can we minister to the hurting this week?

Bible Verses For Those Who Mourn

  • Psalm 23:4 ESV
    Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
        I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
        your rod and your staff,
        they comfort me.
  • Psalm 30:5 ESV
    For his anger is but for a moment,
        and his favor is for a lifetime.
    Weeping may tarry for the night,
        but joy comes with the morning.
  • Psalm 34:18 ESV
    The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
        and saves the crushed in spirit.
  • Psalm 46:1-2 ESV
    God is our refuge and strength,
        a very present[b] help in trouble.
    Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
        though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea
  • Psalm 73:26 ESV
    My flesh and my heart may fail,
        but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
  • Psalm 119:50 ESV
    This is my comfort in my affliction,
        that your promise gives me life.
  • Psalm 147:3 ESV
    He heals the brokenhearted
        and binds up their wounds.
  • Isaiah 53:4 ESV
    Surely he has borne our griefs
        and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
        smitten by God, and afflicted.
  • Lamentations 3:31-33 ESV
    For the Lord will not
        cast off forever,
    32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
        according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
    33 for he does not afflict from his heart
        or grieve the children of men.
  • Matthew 5:4 ESV
    Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV
    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 ESV
    But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
  • Revelation 21:4 ESV
    He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Please join me over at (in)courage today!

 

Will you join me?

Today I’m posting in an amazing community for women called ‘(in)courage’  to remind us of this:

Beauty is what Christ brings us, right into the middle of our hardest days and saddest seasons.

And even though Christ’s work in our situations is not always resurrection in the present, it is always transformation: beauty for ashes, gladness for mourning, praise for despair.

I’m thrilled and honored to be sharing this message with the (in)courage community and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to click this link and join me over there today.  It would be a true joy to ‘see some familiar faces!’

You can click here to read the whole post over on the (in)courage page.  I’d be truly blessed if you’d leave me a comment on their site!  I’ll be popping in throughout the day to reply.

If you love the (in)courage site as much as I do, you can also sign up here to receive free daily encouragement from the writers of (in)courage, right in your inbox!

While I’d love for you to visit me over at (in)courage today, I ask for your prayers above all. May God be glorified and His people be encouraged by this message of hope in His faithfulness!

How Mourning Changes our Worship

psalm-34

Just a few months after my dad died, we toted our 6-month old baby to a huge outdoor Christian concert where the Newsboys sang.  I still remember them performing one particular song  that night:

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name….

You give and take away,
You give and take away,
My heart will choose to say,
Lord, Blessed be your name. (Blessed Be the Name  of the Lord).

By that point in the concert, it was evening, and the darkness skirted the edge of the crowds  where the huge lights didn’t quite reach.

We had brought my mom along with us, a new widow after my dad’s cancer fight, and I looked through the dimness to see how she was handling that song.  It could have been a tough one.

She was worshiping, though.  I mean all-out worshiping, hands held high to God, singing away.

I’ve been thinking about that moment recently because mourning impacts our worship.  It has to.  We can’t come to God quite the same way after such loss.

There are choices to be made.

Do we clutch our hurt to our own chests and try to hide away?  Do we allow bitterness to creep in and put this safe distance between us and the God who didn’t intervene or heal or rescue?

Or do we bring that same hurt right to Jesus?  Do we lay our brokenness out where He can see it and collapse into His arms and still sing because we’re thankful that He’s there for us and thankful He’s strong enough to carry us?

I find my worship changing these days.  My friend died on December 26th after her own bout with cancer.

We sang together in the praise team and choir for a little more than 12 years, so it’s acutely painful at times to sing praises to God and tangibly know that she is missing.

Those notes she used to sing…her notes….the ones she always sang to harmonize with the notes I always sang…..they aren’t there.  The chord is stripped a bit bare.

It’s not her voice I miss most, of course, it’s her joyful, sweet presence.  Her encouraging kindness, her humor, and her easygoing humility—that willingness to always sing or do whatever we needed sung or done.

I miss her.

The music just reminds me of the loss.

So, there I am playing on the piano, singing the same worship songs, but singing them differently now.

The worship is a little more tender because my heart is softened and aches a bit, like the music is stepping on a bruise that hasn’t healed yet.

The worship is also a little more vulnerable because there’s a rawness and a brokenness I can’t quite hide.  The emotions refuse to be tamped down and kept under control at all times.

And the worship is  now a “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15).  I’m not bringing Him what’s easy; I’m bringing Him a costly offering, praise when I’m sad and worship when I’m hurting.

Mourning changes our worship because it brings Him near. The barriers are down.  The need is evident; we’re so truly dependent on Him.

The Psalmist said:

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18 ESV)

The Bible also promises us that:

He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3 ESV).

In order for Him to wrap those bandages around our hearts, He has to come close. He doesn’t just fling the healing in our direction; He reaches out to heal us with His own hands.

We also know Him in a new way.  We may have known Him as God our Provider, or The Lord our Shepherd.  The names of God reflect His character.

And now, in our sadness, we know Him as “The God of all Comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3).

That is the name I’ve been using in my prayers and in my songs.  Not only is this who He is, it’s a promise of what He does.

Jesus said,

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4 ESV).

And when we sorrow, we live this out.  It’s no longer theory, it’s experienced fact.

God comforts us . We personally know His compassion.

Instead of being a distant God, an unfeeling judge or cold overseer, Jesus:

 has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4a).

Worshiping in our mourning allows Jesus to carry us, carry our sorrows, bear our griefs.  He did it on the cross.  He does it now.

Need some more reminders from God’s Word?
Here are Bible Verses for Those Who Mourn

Bible Verses for Those Who Mourn

verses-for-those-who-mourn

  • Psalm 23:4 ESV
    Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
        I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
        your rod and your staff,
        they comfort me.
  • Psalm 30:5 ESV
    For his anger is but for a moment,
        and his favor is for a lifetime.
    Weeping may tarry for the night,
        but joy comes with the morning.
  • Psalm 34:18 ESV
    The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
        and saves the crushed in spirit.
  • Psalm 46:1-2 ESV
    God is our refuge and strength,
        a very present[b] help in trouble.
    Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
        though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea
  • Psalm 73:26 ESV
    My flesh and my heart may fail,
        but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
  • Psalm 119:50 ESV
    This is my comfort in my affliction,
        that your promise gives me life.
  • Psalm 147:3 ESV
    He heals the brokenhearted
        and binds up their wounds.
  • Isaiah 53:4 ESV
    Surely he has borne our griefs
        and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
        smitten by God, and afflicted.
  • Lamentations 3:31-33 ESV
    For the Lord will not
        cast off forever,
    32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
        according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
    33 for he does not afflict from his heart
        or grieve the children of men.
  • Matthew 5:4 ESV
    Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV
    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 ESV
    But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
  • Revelation 21:4 ESV
    He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

When you don’t know what to say

Psalm 147

He told me about his wife, about her kidneys not behaving, her liver calling it quits and her heart not being strong.

They had dared to throw out the word ‘hospice’ in one of those foggy discussions with doctors where you’re hearing them and you’re nodding your head, but really the words don’t make sense.

On the phone, I heard how ‘hospice’ made him stumble.  He sucked in his breath and cleared his throat. Then he said how his brother is already there, in hospice–(there he said it again; that word never seems to come out easy).

I had this conversation with my grandfather years ago, and as I listened I thought of my grandmother, spunky and life-filled, always in tennis shoes so she could speed-walk everywhere, always talking about trips to Haw-a-ii and cruises to Alaska and other adventures.

Then I thought of her in the hospital, under 100 pounds, so fragile.

Two irreconcilable images, surely not the same person.  Yet, there it was, unreal but real.

My grandfather said, “I’m fixin’ to be an orphan here soon” and laughed a kind of nervous giggle when you make a joke that isn’t truly funny.

What to say to that?

After years of women’s ministry, I’ll tell you what never gets easy—knowing what to say when it’s all spilling out of someone and you just want to rescue them, but you’re powerless to do little more than hug and slip on a few Band-aids, then pray with desperate cries that God will heal in the deep-down ways we can’t.

Lost jobs, unfaithful husbands, abusive spouses, alcoholism and pornography, runaway kids, bankruptcy, rape, homelessness, pregnancy unplanned and unwanted, pregnancy wanted so bad it hurts every month with that negative test, abortion, custody battles gone wrong, parents not talking to kids and kids not talking to parents, divorce, fatigue, dying moms and dads, babies in caskets, surgeries failing and car accidents turned tragic…

This…. never…. gets …..easy.

How can there be the right words for so much that is wrong?

Maybe that’s exactly the point.

Maybe even a lover-of-words like me has to fess up that sometimes words don’t just fall short, they actually get in the way.

Like for Job, sitting among ashes, wearing torn rags, scraping at the burning blisters on his flesh with broken pottery, mourning his servants, grieving his children.

Scripture tells us:

When Job’s three friends… heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him because they saw how great his suffering was (Job 2:11-13).

They spent a week in silence with Job.  For guys who turned out to be so chatty (okay, verbose), this was actually a promising start!

They seemed to get this right, this friendship without words.  Just mourning with those who mourn and leaving it at that.

Unfortunately, Eliphaz eventually asked the question: “But who can keep from speaking?” (Job 4:2) and that’s when it all went awry.

He erupted with spiritual cliches, the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” speeches, theological debates and judgmental accusation…and the other friends joined in.

Ezekiel the prophet, on the other hand, “came to the exiles who lived at Tel Aviv near the Kebar River.  And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days–deeply distressed” (Ezekiel 3:15).

For a week, the prophet crouched in the dust with the exiles from Jerusalem, those who had been carried off after years of starvation and the siege by the Babylonian empire.

And he stayed there until God told him to get up and move on (Ezekiel 3).

Sometimes we back away in fear from those in pain, not really knowing what to do.  After all, we can easily say the wrong thing.

But you really can’t mess up listening.

God brings hurting people to us not so we can fix life for them or speak some magical words that make it all better.

He wants us to get down in the dirt where they’ve fallen, love them, pray with them, serve them, and practice the power of presence (maybe even presence without words).

*************************************

May I recommend this book if you are grieving the loss of someone or ministering to another who is mourning?  It is lovely and full of practical advice and spiritual encouragement. Grieving God’s Way: The Path to Lasting Hope and Healing by Margaret Brownley

Ask Me More: The Unexpected Ways of Grief, and the Expected Presence of our Savior

Grief has a way of surprising you.

It’s the impish way memory has of trampling in all unexpected and unannounced in moments you least expect and on the most average of days.

It wasn’t ever my dad’s birthday or father’s day or even the anniversary of his death when the sadness came heavy.

No, it was when I walked into the fire station for my four-year-old daughter’s field trip years ago.

A dozen preschoolers clamored for a chance to scramble up into the driver’s seat of the fire engine.  I sucked in my breath, blinked tears out of my eyes and then wiped them off my cheek, trying to look natural, like there was just dust in my eye.

My dad was a firefighter.

I explain this to someone else: that sometimes it’s not the days when you are most prepared for grief that are the hardest.  But it’s the way an unexpected sound or sight or smell can usher in a memory that just knocks the breath right out of you.

She speaks wisdom in return: Better to have those memories that stir up grief than to completely forget.

Yes, how much better not to forget because, given time, Jesus turns those ashes right into beauty and surely we wouldn’t want to miss the sight.

Somehow even the pain and the tears become sweet when we bring them to Jesus and receive the memory not as bitter loss, but as a precious gift that He gives.revelation21

When Mary Magdalene sat outside the empty tomb of Jesus on Resurrection morning, she cried with hopelessness.

Grave-robbers.  Defilers.  Someone had been in there and taken the body of her Lord.

She still called Him, “Lord” even after she’d seen Jesus hang on that cross.  Even when others might have been stunned by the failure of the man they thought was Messiah, still she believes at least this:  He is still Lord.

Somehow she clung to belief and managed to carry it even with her sorrow.  She held on tight to see what God would do.

After the disciples rushed into the tomb, saw the emptiness and ran back to others with the news. still Mary lingered outside the last place she’d seen Jesus.  She “stood outside the tomb crying” (John 20:11).

It’s not to Peter or John that Jesus appears first. He doesn’t rush into the town to show the crowd His resurrected body.

He appears first to this weeping woman at the grave and asks,

“Woman, why are you crying?”  (John 20:15)

Jesus met with her in her despair and asked her to bring the grief to Him.

Maybe her eyes were so cloudy with tears or maybe her brain just couldn’t comprehend the matter, but she thinks Jesus is no more than a gardener.  So, she begs him to tell her where Jesus’ body may have been moved.

He stops her there, not just in her sorrow, but in her accusation and anger, and He reminds her of His presence by just speaking her name– “Mary.”

Did she recognize the way her name sounded when Jesus spoke it?  Did He open her eyes to see what had been veiled before?

Whatever happens, she realizes it’s Jesus Himself, not some gardener laboring over weeds.

“Rabboni!” (Teacher), she yells as she worships a risen Savior.  That becomes her testimony and her joy, “I have seen the Lord!”

And over time, slowly and without me ever knowing when it all happened, the memories I used to meet as a shocking reminder of loss have become like dear friends stopping by for a surprise visit.

I’ve learned, like Mary, that God is present even in the places of sorrow.

I think this as I plug in the record player a friend gave me last week.

She brought me this old technology in a brown carry-case and I’ve toted it home and placed it on my kitchen table.  I pull out records that I couldn’t listen to before, ease one out of its sleeve and place it on the turntable.ask-me-anything-lord_kd

The moment that needle dips down into that first groove, my kids come running to marvel over the mysterious sound.

We listen to some of my dad’s records, and for once I’m not tearful.

It’s sweet.  Like the memories alone keep him present.

And I think, how precious that God walks us through the tears and reminds us of His presence even in the brokenness.

How precious that He calls us by name, that He knows our sorrow and even asks us to bring it to Him by asking, “Woman, why are you crying?

Our Resurrected Savior wipes away tears.  But even more than that, He gives us hope for a future that is forever and ever in His presence.

Want to read more about the questions God asks?
Check out my book, Ask Me Anything, Lord, available in paperback and for the Kindle and nook!

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!
To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Remembering: Even If He Does Not

 

Originally posted on February 20, 2011

 

Today, the sermon at our church was on miracles and how God uses them to bring glory to Himself and to grow faith in us.  It is always exciting to recount what God has done and give testimony, both Biblical and current, to His might and majesty.

But, today was a hard day for me to talk about miracles.  I’ve been praying for two years for a sweet baby girl, born terribly premature.  She’s fought so hard for so long, receiving a liver transplant, undergoing open heart surgery, and more.  Yesterday, though, I got the phone call saying she had passed away in the night.

Yes, it’s a hard day to think about miracles.

It’s not that I think this was too much for God or that He didn’t love this little girl enough to give her another miracle in her already miraculous life.

The hard thing for me is that I’m a question-asker.  In any room at any time, I am usually the one asking the most questions.  I am willing, sometimes even with people I hardly know, to ask them far more than the superficial sanctioned small-talk.  I’m not a “How are you doing?  Where do you live?  How’s the weather been?” kind of person.

Thus, as I’m praying for the family of this tiny girl, I’m bold enough to ask God some tough questions.  It’s at times like these I’m thankful that He is such a big God, that He allows us to lift our pain-filled faces up to His, look straight into His eyes, and ask Him, “Lord, why?  What are you doing in this situation?”

When one of Jesus’s closest friends fell sick, his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick” (John 11:3, NIV).  Surprisingly, Jesus didn’t rush to their home to heal Lazarus.  In fact, by the time Jesus arrived, Martha greeted him along the path:  “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Then Mary went out, fell at His feet and said exactly the same thing,  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32, NIV). Some of the bystanders even bluntly asked, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (Luke 11:37, NIV).

These sisters didn’t hide their confusion and hurt and Jesus didn’t rebuke them for confronting Him.  In this case, Jesus quickly answered their questions.  He called Lazarus up from the tomb and displayed His power over life and death.  He asked a question in return ,“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40, NIV).

The prophet, Habakkuk, wasn’t like most of the other Old Testament prophets, who delivered messages from God.  Instead, much of what Habakkuk wrote is full of questions for God, just as Mary and Martha asked questions of Jesus. In his brief book, Habakkuk asked:

  • How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? (Habakkuk 1:2-3)
  • Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? (Habakkuk 1:13)

After presenting a chapter-long list of complaints to God, Habakkuk says, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint” (Habakkuk 2:1).  And God answered Him.

For us, sometimes it does become clear why God chooses to answer “no” or “wait” to our heartfelt pleas for a miracle.  I can look back now and see how God used my husband’s job loss and temporary unemployment not just for God’s glory, but ultimately for our blessing and benefit.  What seemed like harm, was actually salvation for us!

In other cases, though, our questions remain unanswered this side of heaven.

When the three Hebrew men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down to and worship King Nebuchadnezzar, they faced instant death in the fiery furnace.  The king offered them one last chance to deny their faith and worship him instead.  To this, they replied:

“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

What faith!  The miracles aren’t what we should be seeking; we should be seeking God and hoping for whatever brings Him glory.  If He rescues us, then we praise Him.  Even if God doesn’t give us the miracle we’re looking for or provide for us in the way we expect, we can, like the three men in the fiery furnace, still worship God alone.  We can trust His hand.  We can know that somehow He will be glorified even in our tragedies.

When God answered Habakkuk’s tough questions, the prophet was moved to write what my Bible notes is a “hymn of faith” (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NIV).  It’s one of my favorites:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk says, “Even when we’re starving and we have no hope of a harvest, we’ll choose to praise God.”  The Message translates verse 18 as: “Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength.” It’s when we walk through the hard times with God, counting on His rule to prevail, pouring out our questions to Him and learning to trust Him, that He gives us the toughened, sure “feet of deer” and trains us how to “tread on the heights.”

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King