Sometimes, our hopes feel like milk bottles stacked in a pyramid shape in a carnival game. Life is the baseball, aimed, thrown, and knocking down each hope one by one. We hope the treatment will work. Smack! We hope our marriage will heal. Smack! We hope our finances will turn around. Smack! We hope justice will be served. Smack! Life hits those hopes hard, and down they crash. It’s all too tempting to give up, believe nothing is going to change, and sink into despair.
Despair says hope has run dry. Despair looks at our circumstances and declares, “Why bother trying? Just give up.” Despair is the phrase spoken by Job’s wife when she said, “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Suffering forces you to ask if your hope is real and if it’s worth holding on to.
Despair can seem far more in line with reality than hope. Hoping a loved one we’ve lost will one day live again sounds crazy. Hoping justice will one day roll down like waters doesn’t make sense when we watch people get away with evil. Hoping God will remake a world coming apart at every seam—that kind of hope feels foolish. Why bother holding on to Him when He leaves us with all (waving my hands wildly) this?
The Example of Habakkuk
We’re not the only ones who have been tempted to despair. The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk grieved the wickedness and injustice he saw in Israel, and he was angry God didn’t seem to be doing anything about it. “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help and you will not hear? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?” (Hab. 1:2–3a). When are You going to finally show up, God? God answers that He’s been working. And part of His plan includes using the nation of Babylon to bring justice.
This response seems to set Habakkuk over the edge. Babylon is more wicked than God’s people! How could a good God answer this way? The prophet appeals to God’s character, saying, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” (Hab. 1:13). What’s happening in the world doesn’t jive with what Habakkuk thought he knew about God.
God makes it clear He will deal with all wickedness and save His people in the process (Hab. 3:13). He answers Habakkuk, but God doesn’t resolve all the questions. In the meantime, the prophet can only wait. “I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint” (Hab. 2:1).
Learning to Wait
We don’t like waiting. We like our instant pots and our high-speed internet and our same-day delivery. We want our emails answered within minutes and our children to “just hurry up and get in the car.” Most of us are woefully bad at waiting—and waiting on God is no exception.
But God has never been pressed for time. He’s never been in a rush or scrambling to get out the door. He’s never missed an appointment or been late to fulfill a commitment. No. The sovereign God works in ways we can’t always understand and on a timetable we don’t usually like.
Habakkuk’s example reveals that our suffering doesn’t have to lead us to despair. Instead, when we cling to our sure and steady hope, we can find joy and security while we wait on God to do what He said He’ll do.
It’s in the midst of his waiting that the prophet finally says the words most familiar in 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.” (Hab. 3:17-18)
Like Habakkuk, may we hold onto our hope, knowing God will make good on His promises. Until the darkness becomes light and tears turn to joy, may we be people who watch and wait, trusting that God will come through in the end.
SARAH J. HAUSER is a writer and speaker living in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and four kids. She shares biblical truth to nourish the soul — and the occasional recipe to nourish the body. Sarah completed her B.A. and M.A. at Wheaton College. She’s a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and has written for Coffee + Crumbs, Risen Motherhood, The Rabbit Room, The Gospel Coalition, (in)courage, and more. Find her at sarahjhauser.com, on Instagram (@sarah.j.hauser), or check out her monthly newsletter at sarahjhauser.com/subscribe.com.