THE SEASON OF GROANING By Jaquelin Stoner

What if starting tonight, God did not answer one single prayer of yours as you had requested? For example, that friend with cancer; they died. That job you needed; someone else was given the position. That spouse who is persistently unkind to you, continues to be nasty (or becomes increasingly nasty). That beloved family member who is addicted to alcohol continues to drink their way down the drain. What if? What if? That’s when a faith walker has a decision to make, if she is going to decide to put on what I call “big girl pants”. 

Yes, delightful things may come along your way, but that wonderful answer may often end up having its own problems. For instance, the person you have prayed through thick and thin regarding their alcohol addiction has accepted Jesus and is faithfully attending AA meetings, but now is dying due to the years of substance abuse. Or what about that new job you prayed and prayed about in order to meet your family’s financial needs but after three months you feel like throwing in the towel due to your new boss’ problems with rage. Maybe even worse, your spouse is finally acting nice to you but you have discovered it is due to their guilt because they are having an affair.

         What do you do with that? If you read the prophet Habakkuk’s response, it can make you particularly uncomfortable because it involves choosing to not remain the victim. Habakkuk lived in an agrarian society where farming was essential. In Habakkuk 3:17 the prophet writes about a farmer’s worst nightmare: “Even if the fig tree does not blossom, and there is no fruit on the vines, if the yield of the olive fails, and the fields produce no food, even if the flock disappears from the fold, and there are no cattle in the stalls”. What if you are not getting what you want and think you need? Are God’s calendar and planning off base because the Farmer’s Almanac says the rains are due?  In the celestial planning meeting, did God get confused? What do you do when you are on your knees before heaven and you just don’t see that answer you are looking for?

         In Habakkuk 3:18-19, the important answer is where the “spiritual big girl pants” come into play. When your faith has to go beyond sight and to grow up into adult confidence and reliance in choosing to believe God is Who He says He is, regardless of what you are seeing with your physical eyes. Habakkuk responds: “Yet I will triumph in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like deer’s feet, and has me walk on my high places.” The New English Translation says: “I will rejoice because of the Lord; I will be happy because of the God who delivers me! The Sovereign Lord is my source of strength.”. We don’t live by the headlines, we don’t live by what we see on the news, we live by faith in the Trustworthy God.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul didn’t write as a kindergartner in the school of suffering and unexpected occurrences – he had an advanced graduate degree in following God. Paul described some of his suffering with these terms in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28: whipped until his back was stripped, imprisonment, beatings, stonings, being shipwrecked, being in peril of his own countrymen, in peril in the hands of the Gentiles, in peril in the city, in peril in the wilderness, in peril among fake teachers, being physically exhausted, often not being able to sleep, being in hunger and thirst, being cold and naked. Those aren’t just physical sufferings, they include the spiritual burdens Paul bore and spiritual attacks he faced.  “This rich theology of suffering was forged on the anvil of his own experiences of ‘the sufferings of Christ.’” (Murray J Harris)

Maybe right now as you are reading this, you feel your life being pounded on the anvil of suffering. It is incredibly hard. However, you are not alone. You have millions of believers who throughout history and right this minute are walking through the fire like you are. Larry Crabb writes: “The experience of groaning, is precisely what modern Christianity so often tries to help us escape.” But even during the season of groaning, God has not abandoned you. You have the same choice as Habakkuk. Choose wisely: “Yet I will triumph in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like deer’s feet, and has me walk on my high places.” The “what if” can be translated into triumph, rejoicing, and walking in high places. Choose wisely.