I had a call from a colleague and friend today, asking and wondering how do we live life when the world seems to be spinning in ways we did not expect it to be? What do we do when we are fearful?
I would like to share my response because I believe that it will inspire you.
The first chapter of the book of Habakkuk is essentially a long complaint followed by God’s response. It then continues with yet another complaint and another response from God. The book concludes with a prayer or a Psalm from Habakkuk. This book was written, proceeding the fall of Babylon, yet the date of composition of the book cannot be guaranteed just by perusing the book itself. Most likely, individuals who lived after the fall Babylonia in 539 BCE understood much of this book is a meditation on life in an unjust world. They wondered how to relate to God when nations “slays nations without pity,” and “seize homes not their own.” What do we do when individuals do not place thier trust in God, and how can a pious person deal with this unwieldy situation?
God responds that the answer is clearly written on tablets, perhaps as described in the book of Deuteronomy.
He then says:
הִנֵּ֣ה עֻפְּלָ֔ה לֹא־יָשְׁרָ֥ה נַפְשׁ֖וֹ בּ֑וֹ וְצַדִּ֖יק בֶּאֱמוּנָת֥וֹ יִחְיֶֽה׃
“Lo, his spirit within him is puffed up, not upright, But the righteous man is rewarded with life For his fidelity.” (Habakkuk 2:4)
This verse, initially describes a person whose life is swollen with not good things and who lives a twisted or unjust life. Perhaps it is one full of deception or one full of egotism. It then moves to a pious person whose faith is in God even under the most dire circumstances. Even though they must live life where justice is delayed or denied, that time according to God will be short-lived. Habakkuk goes on to draw a parallel with Isaiah chapter 11:9, that there will be a time when everyone will know God...
Perhaps today we wonder and struggle, what can we do to make this world a better place? To me the answer is that the most impact we will have is on those who surround us. It is their lives that we can make better. We can speak up when we see injustices, and we can remove blind spots by becoming more aware of the world around us and the systems that work in it – systemic poverty and racism for example. We need to focus our energies on walking in the footsteps of God as a community. The book of Habakkuk ends by saying: “my Lord God is my strength: he makes my feet like the deer’s and lets me stride upon the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:19).
For me God is found inside of us all and when we unite our hands together we can bring the divine into this world through our very actions. It is my prayer that we live our lives full of tackling difficult and challenging issues, causing ourselves to grow and become better individuals and communities more focused on God and assisting those around us.