“Trust in Jehovah with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.”—PROV. 3:5.
1. Why do we all need comfort?
WE ALL need comfort. Perhaps worries, disappointments, and afflictions have become part of our life. We may be struggling with heartaches resulting from advancing age, disease, or the loss of a loved one. Some of us are subjected to hostility. Escalating violence surrounds us. True, we are convinced that these “critical times hard to deal with” are evidence that we are living “in the last days” and that each passing day brings us one step closer to the new world. (2 Tim. 3:1) Still, we may have been waiting for a long time to see the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promises, and our difficulties may be increasing. So where can we find comfort?
2, 3. (a) What do we know about Habakkuk? (b) Why will we consider the book of Habakkuk?
2 To find the answer, let us examine the book of Habakkuk. Though the Scriptures do not provide specific details about Habakkuk’s life and activity, the book that bears his name is a source of encouragement. His name probably means “Ardent Embrace.” This could refer to Jehovah’s comforting embrace or to the way his worshippers confidently cling to him. Habakkuk spoke to God, asking probing questions. In effect, he asked questions on our behalf, since Jehovah inspired Habakkuk to write down the conversation.—Hab. 2:2.
3 This intimate dialogue between the distraught man of God and Jehovah is all the Scriptures reveal about the prophet. His book is part of “all the things that were written beforehand” and that are preserved in God’s Word, the Bible, “so that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4) How can we personally benefit from the book of Habakkuk? It can help us to see what it means to trust in Jehovah. Further, Habakkuk’s prophecy assures us that it is possible to acquire and maintain a calm heart despite our afflictions and problems. With that in mind, let us consider the book of Habakkuk in more detail.
CALL ON JEHOVAH
4. Why was Habakkuk distraught?
4 Read Habakkuk 1:2, 3. Habakkuk lived during a very difficult and challenging time. He was deeply saddened because he was surrounded by wicked, violent people. When would their wickedness end? Why did Jehovah take so long before acting? All Habakkuk saw was injustice and oppression practiced by his own countrymen. He felt helpless. So in the midst of this dark period, he called on Jehovah to intervene. Habakkuk may have started to imagine that Jehovah was not concerned. It seemed that God would not act soon enough. Can you identify with the feelings of this dear servant of God?
5. What important lesson is found in the book of Habakkuk? (See opening picture.)
5 Had Habakkuk lost trust in Jehovah? Did he fail to maintain his faith in God’s promises? By no means! The mere fact that he entrusted his problems and concerns to Jehovah and not to humans shows that he had not given up in despair. He was obviously troubled because he could not understand God’s timing or the reason why Jehovah allowed him to be in such a painful situation. By inspiring Habakkuk to write down his concerns, Jehovah provided us with an important object lesson: We must not be afraid to tell Him about our concerns or doubts. Indeed, he kindly invites us to pour out our heart to him in prayer. (Ps. 50:15; 62:8) Proverbs 3:5 adds the encouragement to “trust in Jehovah with all [our] heart” and not to “rely on [our] own understanding.” Habakkuk likely knew these words and took them to heart.
6. Why is prayer important?
6 Habakkuk took the initiative to draw close to Jehovah, his trusted Friend and Father. Habakkuk did not just fret over his situation, relying on his own understanding. Instead, he prayed about his feelings and worries, setting a good example for us. Moreover, Jehovah, the Hearer of prayer, invites us to show our trust by prayerfully sharing our concerns with him. (Ps. 65:2) Doing so will help us to experience Jehovah’s response—his warm embrace by means of his kind guidance. (Ps. 73:23, 24) He will help us to know his thoughts no matter what afflicts us. Our heartfelt prayers are one of the deepest expressions of our trust in God.
LISTEN TO JEHOVAH
7. How did Jehovah react to Habakkuk’s worries?
7 Read Habakkuk 1:5-7. After leaving his worries and concerns in Jehovah’s hands, Habakkuk may have wondered how Jehovah would react. As an empathetic and understanding Father, Jehovah did not rebuke him for his sincere complaint. God knew that it was a desperate cry of pain and sorrow. In words really aimed at the wayward Jews, Jehovah informed Habakkuk of what would happen in the near future. It could well be that Habakkuk was the first to whom Jehovah revealed that the end of that violent era was very near.
8. Why did Jehovah’s response puzzle Habakkuk?
8 Jehovah showed Habakkuk that He was ready to act. The punishment of that violent and wicked generation was imminent. By the expression “in your days,” Jehovah indicated that this judgment would definitely occur during the lifetime of the prophet or that of his contemporaries. Jehovah’s reply was not at all what Habakkuk expected. Was this the answer to his impatient cry? What Jehovah told him surely meant that suffering would increase for all of Judah.* The Chaldeans (Babylonians) were ruthless and brutal, more violent than Habakkuk’s own people, who at least knew Jehovah’s standards. Why would Jehovah use this cruel pagan nation to bring calamity on his people? How would you have reacted after hearing this divine response?
9. What questions may Habakkuk have asked himself?
9 Read Habakkuk 1:12-14, 17. Habakkuk understood that Jehovah would use Babylon to judge and punish the evildoers surrounding him, but he was still perplexed. Yet, he humbly told Jehovah that He continued to be his “Rock.” (Deut. 32:4; Isa. 26:4) Habakkuk would patiently continue to trust in God’s love and kindness. The prophet’s resolve gave him the confidence to appeal to Jehovah again. Why would God allow conditions in Judah to get even worse? Why would he not act right away? Why would the Almighty tolerate even more distress? Why would he “keep silent” when wickedness took over? He is the “Holy One”; his “eyes are too pure to look on what is evil.”
10. How might we at times feel as did Habakkuk?
10 At times, we may feel as did Habakkuk. We listen to Jehovah. With full trust, we read and study his Word, and this gives us hope. We hear about his promises through the instruction that his organization provides. But we still may wonder, ‘When will our afflictions end?’ What can we learn from what Habakkuk did next?
WAIT ON JEHOVAH
11. What did Habakkuk resolve to do after listening to Jehovah?
11 Read Habakkuk 2:1. Habakkuk’s conversation with Jehovah gave him a calm heart. So he resolved to keep waiting confidently on Jehovah to act. This was not just a spur-of-the-moment reaction, for he repeated his resolve when he later said that he would “quietly wait for the day of distress.” (Hab. 3:16) Other faithful servants of God displayed the same patient trust, encouraging us not to give up waiting on Jehovah to act.—Mic. 7:7; Jas. 5:7, 8.
12. What are some lessons we learn from Habakkuk?
12 What does Habakkuk’s resolve teach us? First, we must never stop praying to Jehovah, no matter what trials befall us. Second, we need to listen to what Jehovah tells us through his Word and organization. Third, we should patiently wait on Jehovah, fully trusting that he will relieve our pains in his own time. If we continue to talk intimately with Jehovah and listen to him with a waiting attitude, as Habakkuk did, we too will gain a calm heart, which will help us to endure. Our hope will strengthen our patience, which in turn will help us to rejoice despite all the adversities we may face. Hope gives us confidence that our heavenly Father will act.—Rom. 12:12.
13. What kind assurance do we find at Habakkuk 2:3?
13 Read Habakkuk 2:3. Jehovah surely was pleased with Habakkuk’s decision to wait. The Almighty was fully aware of Habakkuk’s dire circumstances. Therefore, God provided consolation by lovingly and gently assuring the prophet that he would receive answers to his sincere questions. Relief for all his worries would come before too long. God, in effect, told Habakkuk: “Be patient, trust in me. My answer will come despite the apparent delay!” Jehovah reminded him that He had an appointed time for fulfilling His promises. He counseled Habakkuk to wait for the accomplishment of His purposes. Ultimately, the prophet would not be disappointed.
14. What should be our resolve in times of trouble?
14 Patiently waiting on Jehovah and paying close attention to what he tells us will give us confidence and will help us to acquire a calm heart despite adversities and hardships. Jesus confirmed that we can trust in Jehovah as the Great Timekeeper, not focusing on “times or seasons” that God has not yet revealed. (Acts 1:7) Therefore, may we not give up but wait in humility, faith, and patience, making good use of the time we have to serve Jehovah to the best of our abilities.—Mark 13:35-37; Gal. 6:9.
TRUSTING IN JEHOVAH RESULTS IN LIFE AND A GLORIOUS FUTURE
15, 16. (a) What powerful promises can we find in the book of Habakkuk? (b) What do these promises teach us?
15 To the righteous who trust in him, Jehovah has promised: “The righteous one will live by his faithfulness,” and “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah.” (Hab. 2:4, 14) Yes, those who patiently trust in God will be rewarded with life.
16 At first glance, the promise found at Habakkuk 2:4 might seem to be merely a general statement. However, the apostle Paul saw Jehovah’s assurance as so significant that he quoted this verse three times! (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38) Whatever difficulties the righteous one may suffer, he will by his faith and trust live to see the fulfillment of God’s purposes. Jehovah tells us to look beyond the present.
17. What assurances does the book of Habakkuk give us?
17 The book of Habakkuk provides a powerful lesson for all of us living in these last days. Jehovah extends his promise of life to any righteous person who displays faith and trust in Him. Let us continue to strengthen our faith and trust in God, no matter what distress and anxiety we face. Through Habakkuk, Jehovah assures us that He will support and deliver us. He kindly asks us to trust in him and to wait patiently for his appointed time when, under God’s Kingdom, the whole earth will be filled with his happy and mild-tempered worshippers.—Matt. 5:5; Heb. 10:36-39.
JOYFULLY TRUST IN JEHOVAH
18. How did Jehovah’s words affect Habakkuk?
18 Read Habakkuk 3:16-19. Jehovah’s words had a profound effect on Habakkuk. He meditated on Jehovah’s awe-inspiring past actions in behalf of his people. Now he was able to renew his trust. He knew that Jehovah would act soon! That comforted the prophet, even though he knew that his own suffering might continue for a time. Habakkuk’s honest doubt changed into unshakable, joyous trust in Jehovah’s saving power. He uttered what may be one of the most memorable expressions of confidence ever expressed by a human. Some scholars think that verse 18 literally means “I will jump for joy in the Lord; I will spin round for delight in God.” What a powerful assurance for all of us! Not only has Jehovah given us wonderful promises but he has assured us that he is swiftly working out his great purpose.
19. How can we find the same comfort as did Habakkuk?
19 No doubt, the vital message of Habakkuk is to trust in Jehovah. (Hab. 2:4) We can acquire and maintain such trust if we strengthen our relationship with Jehovah by (1) persevering in prayer, telling Jehovah all about our anxieties and concerns; (2) paying careful attention to Jehovah’s Word and any direction we receive through his organization; and (3) faithfully and patiently waiting on Jehovah. That is what Habakkuk did. Though he began his book with grief, he ended with a confident and joyful exclamation. May we follow this inspiring example so that we too can feel Jehovah’s fatherly embrace! What greater comfort could we find in this darkening world?
Habakkuk 1:5 uses the plural “you,” indicating that this calamity would befall all of Judah.