Editor's Note: We are a non-religious magazine. However, we acknowledge that spirituality is an important part for some. Our Faith column is a place for anyone to discuss how faith positively affects their mental health and how to improve the conversation around mental health within faith communities.
Last week, I was at a conference with my campus Christian fellowship group. We spent the week studying the book of Habakkuk, which is a record of the prophet Habakkuk’s conversations with God. In it, Habakkuk directly questions what God is doing and how He is good and merciful in the midst of suffering. This is something a lot of Christians face when they are going through suffering.
I tend to have one of three responses when it comes to struggling and suffering with my mental illnesses.
Sometimes, I’ll look inward to myself, depending on my own strength and limited wisdom to fix things. Other times, I’ll look outward to others and depend on them to help relieve my suffering. Or, I will cave inward, because I cannot handle my suffering.
There is a fourth response to suffering, though. This is one response, if I’m being honest, I rarely have when suffering comes:
We can look upward to God, as the prophet Habakkuk did.
In his lament, Habakkuk anchors himself in what he knows to be true about God. Habakkuk anchors himself in the midst of the deep waters God is taking him through. He uses the personal “you” in Habakkuk 1:12-14, making statements about God’s character. Habakkuk roots himself in what he knows to be true.
In Habakkuk 1:12 (ESV), he says, “Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One?” He is stating God is eternal. He uses the name Yahweh, the same as used in Exodus 3. He affirms God is in control. In the same verse, Habakkuk reminds himself of God’s holiness and might, with the words “my Holy One” and in the second half of that verse, Habakkuk also says, “O Rock,” in reference to God. Habakkuk also reminded himself of God’s faithfulness. In 1:12, he says “my God, my Holy One.” Habakkuk reminds himself that God cares for him personally.
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In the midst of my suffering, I find it hard to look up and remember God’s character.
When things are bad, it is hard for me to see God is in control, that God is holy and mighty, that God is faithful and cares for me. Often, my feelings of sadness and despair overwhelm me and I forget God is with me in my sufferings.
Habakkuk, knowing Israel was about to be destroyed by the Babylonians (Habakkuk 1:6), knowing Israel was about to face a great famine (Habakkuk 3:17), knowing he might never see the fulfillment of God’s goodness, was able to trust in the Lord. In 3:18-19, he says:
“Yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength: he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”
It is hard for me to rejoice in the Lord when my world seems to be falling down around me.
It is harder still, to find joy when I cannot see the goodness of God’s character. My sufferings often cause me to trust in myself, to trust in other people, or to crumble under the weight of it all. I don’t often look to God in my sufferings.
This past week, I was reminded of the goodness of God and the promises He has for us and now, I am challenged to hold onto these promises.
One thing I am thankful for, as my environment changes, as my emotions ebb and flow, as my faith waivers and sufferings come, is that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The promises which were true for Habakkuk thousands of years ago are true for me today and will remain unchanging tomorrow.
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