Habakkuk part 2 – 1:1-4 – How Long?

[1] The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.
  [2] O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,
              and you will not hear?
  Or cry to you “Violence!”
              and you will not save?
  [3] Why do you make me see iniquity,
              and why do you idly look at wrong?
  Destruction and violence are before me;
              strife and contention arise.
  [4] So the law is paralyzed,
              and justice never goes forth.
  For the wicked surround the righteous;
              so justice goes forth perverted.(ESV)

“How long?” is the most natural question to ask in the face of suffering.  When true suffering and brokenness arrive, we immediately want to know when they will leave.  We feel the wrong and we cry out for it to be righted.  Amazingly, in this and many other places in the Bible, God invites His people to ask it of Him.  He’s not offended by the question and it does not seem to annoy Him.  Although He is the King and in control of everything, working all things for the good of His people, it is still right and good to cry out, “How long?” when suffering and evil seem to prevail.  We don’t need to pretend everything is ok.  We don’t need to just deal with it.  Habakkuk sees people hurting each other and people in danger and it bereaves him.  It seems like everything is messed up without any hope of justice and peace prevailing.  And so he cries out to the LORD, “How long?”

As we face suffering, uncertainty, and injustice, before we do anything else, it is good and right that we would first direct our attention to the One who rules the universe and join His people who have throughout time cried out “How long?”  While it is a question that seems to reveal a struggle to believe, it is a question that gets us out of our self-sufficiency and is directed toward the only One who can do anything about the wrong we see in our world.  Because the reality is that we live in a world that is continually broken, whether we feel it acutely or not, the disposition of “How long, O Lord?” is a good place for the Christian to be.  It helps us direct our attention toward Him and our hope toward a time when He will fully and finally make all things right again.