Thursday, November 13, 2008

Perplexed by God's Dealings?

Al Mohler posted a good article on November 12 titled, "Is It Legitimate to Question God?" Many Christians have struggled with perplexity sometimes over God's providential dealings with them. What they've experienced in life doesn't seem at first to line up with what they've read in Scripture. If you've ever been there, you're in good company. Even God's people in the Bible went through these deep waters.

Habakkuk was a prophet who couldn't understand why God didn't do something about His sinning people. He knew God is holy and will not condone sin, but at the time God seemed to be silent. When he prayed about this, God's answer drove the prophet into deeper perplexity: God was going to chastise His unfaithful people by means of a nation far more wicked!

God's continued dealings with His distraught servant taught Habakkuk that there was an ultimate purpose in this way of discipline that would issue in God's greater glory and His people's greater good. The LORD showed him the big picture. In God's time the proud invaders would be destroyed; the repentant backsliders would be restored. Habakkuk's prayer of submission and praise in chapter three shows that he had gained scriptural perspective.

The events in our lives sometimes make us wonder: is God listening; does He care; has He turned against us; how should we think about this situation and deal with it? I'd like to recommend a couple of books that deal with these questions. Banner of Truth recently released a new book by Walter Chantry, Habakkuk: A Wrestler with God. From the publisher's description:
As Walter Chantry shows in this absorbing book, Habakkuk lived out his name by wrestling with God in prayer in the midst of a national and international situation resembling our own in many respects. As we read his prophecy, we hear Habakkuk pray, then listen as the Almighty responds. The divine response at first seems overwhelming. Yet at its centre is a glorious revelation of the very heart of the gospel (Hab. 2:4). In this brief exposition, previously published in the Banner of Truth magazine, Chantry draws out themes that are timely, challenging, but ultimately full of comfort.
Another book worth studying is Martyn Lloyd-Jones' Faith on Trial, which is now back in print. It consists of a series of sermons Lloyd-Jones preached on Psalm 73, which deals with a saint's perplexity over why the wicked prosper. Very edifying! I have a copy of Faith: Tried and Triumphant, which is a combination of Faith on Trial and Lloyd-Jones' earlier little book on Habakkuk, From Fear to Faith. In this book are six sermons on Habakkuk that are highly instructive. I like the titles of his sermons:
  • The Strangeness of God's Ways
  • The Prophet's Perplexity
  • Waiting for God's Answer
  • 'The Just Shall Live By Faith'
  • How to Pray
  • How to Rejoice in Tribulations
From Fear to Faith should be reprinted. Used copies are sometimes expensive, but if you get Faith Tried and Triumphant you get both Lloyd-Jones titles for a good price.

It's encouraging to see other people struggle with these issues and come to a believing resolution. They're perplexed and grieved, too; but the same Lord who dealt with Habakkuk has given them the same perspective and faith. I know the Lloyd-Jones books are helpful, and I'm looking forward to reading Walter Chantry's new book because of his reputation as a godly expositor and because of his challenging subject material.

Many good books are available on the subject of perplexity. What are some of yours? Please let us know in the comments.
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places.
(Hab. 3:17-19)