How Long, Oh Lord?

waiting on the Lord in COVID-19

I keep looking for what God is up to in this one-of-a-kind Lent, one where it looks like this Easter will not bring the renewal here on earth that it won for us eternally.

One of the passages reverberating in my mind has been from Habakkuk—-perhaps because my pastor and dear friend, Jeff, whose family has been hit hard by COVID-19, also introduced me to Habakkuk, whose book begins:

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.

Habakkuk 1:2-3

Habakkuk, we feel you! If we only knew when this pandemic will wane. If we could know with certainty how long to “#stayathome.” If we knew when we could come out and come together to support and revive those who have lost their health and their livelihoods. Then, maybe then, we wouldn’t feel so stressed out. The not knowing makes it all the more unbearable.

Waiting is the Hardest Part

You don’t have to look too far in the Bible to find empathy with this cry.

  • Abraham grew old waiting on God to fulfill his promise of a son who would make his descendants as numerous as the stars.
  • The Israelites toiled in bondage in Egypt, waiting and crying out to God over generations for liberation.
  • Then they spent 40 years wandering in the desert imploring God again, how long until we reach the promised land?

And most important of all, throughout the Old Testament and into the New, God’s people waited on the arrival of the promised Messiah.

I find myself connecting in a fresh way to their experiences. I can relate a bit more to how it must have felt to keep faith in a Savior they could not see.

Here is a snippet of the Lord’s response to Habakuk’s plea:

For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
    it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
    it will surely come, it will not delay.
Look at the proud!
    Their spirit is not right in them,
    but the righteous live by their faith.

Habbakkuk 2: 3-4

What is there in the waiting that allows God to move more powerfully in our lives? As I relate our current experience to those of our Biblical ancestors, here are some of the ways I see the Lord at work:

  • Surrender. When we are reminded that we are not in control we begin to relent and truly surrender to God’s sovereignty.
  • Trust. When we acknowledge God’s sovereignty, our hearts become more open to trusting that God is at work in all things, redeeming them for good.
  • Faith. Trusting (without seeing) that God is at work grows our faith.
  • Love. As our faith grows, so does our love for the Lord.
  • Joy. And thus, miraculously, in the midst of suffering and many unknowns, including how long this season will last, we can experience with greater fullness the joy of the Lord.

As if to offer proof of the refining power of waiting, Habakkuk responds to God with these beautiful, timely words that we can meditate on in our waiting this week:

…Yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will exult in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    and makes me tread upon the heights.

Habbakkuk 3: 18-19

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