Day 20

December 16

December 16

Habakkuk 3:17-18

17 Though the fig tree does not blossom and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.

How Long, O Lord?

by Jason Whitt, Ph.D.

Habakkuk begins with prophet’s plaintive plea: “How long, O LORD?” How long must he cry for help and not be heard? How long will he listen for God’s response, and God remain silent? How long?

The prophet looked all around and saw all that was wrong—the injustice, the brokenness, the oppression—and it seemed that those who did evil kept prospering. Even more troubling for him was that the Babylonian armies were to be God’s answer. Their invasion God’s punishment for Judah’s sins. This cannot be what Habakkuk envisioned when he cried out to God for a response.

God reminds the prophet that God’s justice will come. Even the Babylonians will receive their punishment for all that they have done. All that he sees isn’t the last word. God will redeem his people, but it will be in God’s time. And so, the prophet must wait. He must trust. His “how long?” is transformed. His question becomes a declaration: even though the very worst comes and all seems lost, yet I will exult in the LORD. Surely this is one of the most profound exclamations of faith in all scripture.

I wonder how many of us feel like the prophet. We ask with him, “How long, O LORD?”

These are the times of life when it seems everything has gone wrong. We know what it feels like when there is no blossom or fruit on the vine, the fields are barren, and the stalls are empty.

Perhaps it’s when the job goes away and tomorrow doesn’t have any prospects. Maybe it’s watching a child wander in the wilderness, spurning all attempts to draw her home. It could be illness, a dreaded diagnosis, for ourselves or more, for one dearly loved. Whatever it is, it always brings a sense of loss and accompanying grief—that deep hurt that seems to never go away.

Advent is an invitation to wait. It is our reminder that these seasons of life do come, and that sometimes they last far longer than we think we can endure. Yet, we remember that God is not done working, and even more that God is not distant—even if it feels like it. This is the God who took on flesh to enter into this life to share in our suffering and our joys. This is the God who is with us and is redeeming all things.

It is no easy faith that can say, “Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.” This doesn’t mean putting on a happy face and pretending all is fine. That is a pretend faith. The prophet was acutely aware of what was lost. His confession was not a denial of all that was wrong, but that he continued to trust God through it.

Advent reminds us that even when all seems dark and hopeless, God is still God. Hope has not failed. God has not forgotten us. And so, we can continue to rejoice in the God who is our salvation.

Learn More About Our Guest Writer

Jason Whitt, Ph.D.Jason Whitt, Ph.D.

Jason D. Whitt, Ph.D., became a Senior Lecturer in the Honors Program in August 2018. He served as associate director of Baylor’s Institute for Faith and Learning and as adjunct faculty in the Medical Humanities Program from 2009 to 2018. His research interests are in theology of disability, the intersection of faith and medicine, ecclesiology, and political theology. His articles have appeared in Christian Bioethics, Perspectives in Religious Studies, Christian Reflection, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, the International Journal of Christianity and Education, Review and Expositor, and Christian Century.

Dr. Whitt teaches courses in Medical Humanities and coordinates the annual Baylor Medical Ethics Seminar for physicians, administrators and other health care professionals. He is a co-director of the William Carey Crane Scholars Program and a faculty mentor for Christian Pre-Health Fellowship. Dr. Whitt earned degrees from Baylor University (B.A. and Ph.D.) and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He also serves the Baylor community as a Faculty Steward within the Honors Residential College. As an ordained Baptist minister, he served as a youth minister and hospice chaplain before coming to Baylor. He and his wife Maggie have two children, Henry and Camille.