“A Nation Divided”: Habakkuk the Prophet
There are times when all you can do is shake your head and sigh, or perhaps drop your head into your hands and sob.
You read a news report of a heinous murder or unimaginable act of violence.
You see a Tweet not only promoting, but celebrating aborting unborn babies.
You read of, or perhaps experience, a ministry leader—yet another—taking advantage of his position of power to dishonor and abuse women.
You see an act of racism not from a far, but up close and personal, as a person is devalued because of the melanin count of his or her skin.
The world has far too much evil for us to handle and as hard as we try to shield ourselves from it—to live selectively paying attention to what is happening all around us—there are times when evil barges into our minds and hearts and leaves us stunned and despaired.
A Shared Cry
Evil seems to be greater than ever before. It is as if it has been set loose, unrestrained, to wreak havoc throughout our culture. But in reality, evil has always been this common. It has always taken the breath out of people and led to the exact same refrain: “Why?!?! Why, God? Where are you in this?”
This is the cry gasped by Habakkuk so long ago:
Why do you force me to look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Oppression and violence are right in front of me.
Strife is ongoing, and conflict escalates. (Habakkuk 1:3 CSB)
Evil in his day was just as pronounced and just as troubling. Habakkuk wrestled with the same quandary we do: if God is good and God is all-powerful, why does He permit evil? It’s a good question, an honest one, deserving an answer.
If you keep reading Habakkuk, you will find that no clear answer is given to this question. The reason is because there is not one, really. This is a tension in Scripture that we must accept, and indeed embrace. But, we are not left without three critical truths that relate to this dilemma. God is sovereign. God is just. And we are to live by faith.
God Is Sovereign
In response to Habakkuk’s questions, God tells the prophet that evil does not go unpunished. Indeed, God was raising up the Babylonians to bring judgment to His people because of their evil (1:6). We know that this would happen when Babylon came and crushed Judah and hauled them off into captivity. Later, Babylon would experience their own judgment for their wicked ways. In this, we see the important truth of God’s sovereignty—His authority and control over all.
God’s sovereignty can be a controversial doctrine. While some fully embrace it, others are somewhat repulsed by it. The reality is, though, that the Bible teaches God’s sovereignty throughout (as it does humanity’s responsibility). In my experience, aversion to this doctrine stems most often when people feel their freedom is being hindered. However, at times like this one, we want God to be sovereign—we want Him to be in control of what is going on around us.
There is surely room for disagreement and discussion concerning how God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility square up, but neither of these truths can be rejected. As we see in this dilemma, if we reject human responsibility, it makes God the author of evil. And that is not true. Likewise, if we reject God’s sovereignty, it makes evil reign supreme. And that is not true. How this works is another tension, but that it works is biblical truth. God is sovereign over all, including evil.
God Is Just
Not only does God have all authority, He expresses it justly all the time. The problem, for us, is that there are times when we simply do not see God’s acts of justice. This was His point to Habakkuk in the next chapter of the book (2:6-14).
We have to remember that we are not privy to all God is doing at any given time. Neither are our lives long enough to see all He brings to pass in just the right time. Just because justice is unseen, or “delayed” from our perspective does not mean it does not exist.
Furthermore, God’s justice is perfect while ours is often flawed. God will administer the perfect justice in the perfect way at the perfect time.
We Are to Live by Faith
So where does that leave us? Living by faith. It is by faith that we accept that God is sovereign and that He is just. It is not a coincidence, therefore, that this rather obscure Old Testament book contains one of the most important phrases in the entire Bible:
But the righteous one will live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4b CSB)
How important is this phrase? Important enough to be repeated three times in the New Testament:
As the thesis of Paul’s theology tome of Romans: “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17 CSB)
As Paul’s primary defense against legalism: “Now it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11 CSB)
And as an introduction by the writer of Hebrews to the Hall of Faith: “But my righteous one will live by faith; and if he draws back, I have no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10:38 CSB)
While we should certainly dive into this tension of Scripture and fight for better understanding, we will always end at the same place, no matter how deeply we reach—faith. By faith we believe that God is sovereign over evil. By faith we believe that He is just and will deal with evil—namely when Jesus returns to make all things right. But we cannot define faith wrongly—this is not an appeal for blind faith. Rather, we have ample evidence to support our faith that these propositions are true—the cross of Jesus Christ were God acted according to His sovereign purposes to defeat sin and death forevermore.
In this we believe. In this we trust. And in this we hope.
We cannot begin a conversation about justice anywhere but at the cross of Jesus.” — Raechel Myers 
Preschool Tip: Feel free to keep the subject of injustice and evil broad with your preschoolers and to use age appropriate language. The big idea of this session is that bad things happen all around us, but we can know that Jesus will make all things right one day. That latter part is what we need preschoolers grasping.
Kids Tip: As you layer in specifics of injustice and evil, be sure to be sensitive to what your kids may have experienced or be experiencing. This may be a great opportunity for you to help your kids connect the gospel to their lives in very real ways. For example, many of our kids may have experienced racism; this might be a good time to talk about that with them. Pray through what topics might be best to raise (or not) and always keep in mind that it is best to give parents a heads-up when you believe a sensitive topic may come up.
 Raechel Myers, “Justice: let’s begin at the cross,” She Reads Truth, January 16, 2019, https://shereadstruth.com/2014/07/22/justicelets-begin-cross.