Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Habakkuk for Youth Workers

Photo Credit: Wiertz Sebastien (Creative Commons)
Here is a word of encouragement for youth workers adapted from the book of Habakkuk:

How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not save?

How long?
...until these teens begin to make wise choices?
...until the middle school guys stop being distracting?
...until this girl believes she is beautiful and loved?
...until this guy admits his struggle with pornography?
...until the students start engaging in worship/prayer/Scripture?
...until this volunteer leader starts showing up to youth group on time?
...until these parents stop criticizing me?
...until the elders increase the youth ministry budget?
...until my work week doesn't go over 50 hours?
...until this relational conflict and drama is over?
...until...(whatever difficult circumstance you're currently experiencing).

For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told

God's answer is not what Habakkuk expects. He tells Habakkuk that he's sending the Babylonians to sweep across the Israelite nation and take them into captivity. While Habakkuk expects God to fix the problem, it feels like more problems are coming.

What are the "Babylonians" for us? When we're experiencing a draining and difficult season, it may feel like God saying, "hey, this teen's parents are going to get divorced!" or "this student will drop out of church when they leave for college!" or "they're going to get drunk this weekend at a party!" or "the ministry budget is getting cut!" or "she'll attempt suicide!" or "he'll reject you as a mentor and friend!" or "you're fired!"

Lord, are you not from everlasting?

Habakkuk's second question to God: Are you really good? Can I trust you? It's an appropriate question after such a response from God. When we are expecting salvation and solutions, God's response may feel like divine apathy or spite, as if He is purposefully making a bad situation worse. The circumstances shift from difficult to overwhelming; we are drowning and wondering why God doesn't throw us a rope.

For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
    it speaks of the end and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
    it will certainly come and will not delay.

God's second response: Have hope. God's eternal story and plan are bigger than you and I can imagine. He knew that the exile in Babylon would only be a chapter in the larger narrative leading to the Son of God entering into our world and redeeming humanity from the exile of sin and death. Even in the midst of our pain and struggle, God's comforting hand is upon us, and He promises to never leave nor forsake.

Habakkuk's final response is a prayer that ends with these words:

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.

Though this [situation/teen/parent/pastor/family member/friend/sin] is overwhelming and exhausting and life-draining...

...yet I will trust You. I will wait upon the Lord for my strength and hope.

This is trust on the far side of questioning and suffering. This is a trust worth pursuing.

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

What circumstances or situations in your life and ministry are you facing that require this kind of waiting and trust?

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