My Stocking Runneth Over — Adam’s Angle

Christmas brings out our best and worst.

When the turkey is perfect, fresh-fallen snow covers the ground, and Jimmy is home from Iraq it’s easy to bubble over with joy. But when there’s an empty chair at the table, the company makes cutbacks, and the dog gets to the turkey first, our bubble bursts.

As much as we hate to admit it, our joy often depends on our circumstances. That’s no problem when our stocking is full, but where can we find joy when it’s empty?

For Christians, we find joy by walking in faith: by trusting our invisible God who triumphs over our visible circumstances.

You Think You’ve Got It Bad

The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk had a set of lousy circumstances.

His beef wasn’t about the economy or his family or the president-elect. He was concerned about the evil in the society all around him. What really rubbed him the wrong way was that all this evil was being done among God’s people — by God’s people.

What was worse, it seemed to him that God could care less: “How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?” (Habakkuk 1:2-3).

Habakkuk wanted a solution, but he wasn’t prepared for how God would answer him.

Out of the Frying Pan

God’s solution was simple. He was about to send an evil nation, the Babylonians, against Judah to teach them a lesson: “Look at the nations and watch — and be utterly amazed . . . I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people . . . to seize dwelling places not their own” (Habakkuk 1:5-6).

“Babylonians? Big deal,” you might think. But this news would have had real shock value for Habakkuk. It would have been the equivalent of God telling us that He was raising up Al-Qaeda to teach America a lesson.

God’s plan was, in Habakkuk’s mind, unthinkable. How could God – who hates evil – use an evil empire to carry out His will? How could God tell him that things were about to get worse?

Habakkuk cries out a second time: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (Habakkuk 1:13).

Those seem like fair questions. What would God say?

The Big Picture

God answers the prophet. In the second chapter of the book of Habakkuk, God reveals in detail — through a list of five “woes” — that God has seen all the wickedness and that He will judge it completely.

But before God reveals the end of the story He makes it clear that His plan is on His timetable — not Habakkuk’s: “The revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).

But what does this mean for you and me? Sorrows and circumstances will be overcome. But not on our timetable. Jimmy might not be home this Christmas. He might not be home any other Christmas. Yet, the message of Habakkuk is that God is making this wrong world right — in His time and in His way.

That’s good news for someday, but what do we do in the meantime?

How Then Shall We Live?

Although times are bad and although they’re about to get worse, God’s message to Habakkuk is that God’s people are to live by faith, not by sight: “The righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).

Habakkuk’s new perspective on God’s faithfulness gives him the strength to rise above his circumstances: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

It’s God’s perspective that gives us joy this Christmas despite our circumstances.

— Adam Pivec
12/13/08