O Lord, How Long Shall I Cry?
“O Lord, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ And You will not save” (Habakkuk 1:2).
Habakkuk, a prophet of the Lord posed this question to the Lord. Is this a question we would ask the Lord today?
Before we consider Habakkuk’s question, let us look at the setting surrounding Habakkuk’s book of prophecy. King Josiah, the last great king of reform is dead. Jehoiakim has taken the throne. King Jehoiakim is a godless king who is leading Judah down a path of destruction. At some point during the reign of King Jehoiakim, the prophet Habakkuk looks around at the wickedness of the people. He is greatly troubled at why the Lord would allow such wickedness to continue. The remainder of Habakkuk’s first question reveals the wickedness of the people.
“Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds” (Habakkuk 1:3-4).
Judah’s wickedness had brought Habakkuk to tears. In response to Habakkuk’s first question, the Lord told Habakkuk that He was “raising up the Chaldeans” (those of Babylon) as punishment upon Judah.
Habakkuk posed a second to the Lord. Habakkuk says,
“Why do you look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours one more righteous than he? Why do You make men like fish of the sea, like creeping things that have no ruler over them?” (Habakkuk 1:13b-14).
In chapter 2, the Lord answered Habakkuk’s second question with a series of “woe” statements made against the unrighteous. (See verses 6-8, 9-11, 12-14, 15-17, and 18-20.) In short, the Lord showed Habakkuk that He was not blind to “those who deal treacherously” and to the one who “devours one more righteous than he.”
In the third chapter, Habakkuk the prophet praises the glory of God and the wonderful works He has done as well as expresses his trust in the Lord for salvation. Habakkuk writes,
“Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls– (18) Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. (19) The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
Habakkuk had learned a very important lesson. Habakkuk learned the Lord would always deliver the righteous. No matter how great the adversity, the Lord would always be Habakkuk’s strength. Nothing would keep Habakkuk from rejoicing in the Lord.
There are times in our lives when the storm clouds gather. We look at our problems and wonder about the presence of the Lord. We may ask ourselves, “Is the Lord truly watching over me? Is the Lord hearing my prayers? How long will the Lord allow me to suffer?” However, when these moments find their way into our lives, we must do as did Habakkuk and find strength and salvation in the Lord. When the wickedness of the world causes us to be depressed, let us look to the Lord.
Let us always remember two important facts when we face life’s difficulties:
- Adversities can make us stronger, and
- We must always rejoice in the Lord.
The apostle Paul reminds us that tribulations can make us stronger. Paul wrote,
“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; (4) and perseverance, character; and character, hope. (5) Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
Paul told the brethren in Philippi to “(r)ejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). In the same chapter of the Philippian letter, Paul also explained how he was able to endure successes as well as hardships. Paul wrote,
“I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13).
The apostle Peter possessed the same mind as the apostle Paul in regards to trials and sufferings. Peter wrote,
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
Although Habakkuk reached a point where he asked the Lord, “Oh Lord, how long shall I cry?” he recognized his strength was in the Lord. No matter what challenges, perils, difficulties, and even personal failures come our way, if we will look to the Lord and walk in fellowship with Him, if we will trust in the Lord and faithfully follow Him, then He will be our strength and our shield. Let us close this article with the words of David who wrote,
“The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him” (Psalms 28:7).