The Path from Panic to Praises
I just observed something interesting about the word “pandemic.” The word “panic” is interrupted by the root word, “dem.” “Dem” means people, and isn’t that what 2020 has threatened—panic surrounding people?
Each and every day we awaken to pandemic coverage of the pandemic: number of cases, number of deaths, number of restrictions, opinions, arguments, and theories. The news makes us question whether our world will ever be the same. The truth is, our world won’t be the same. It is ever-changing and turning. But the seismic shift caused by COVID-19, racial injustice, and polarizing politics has many of us feeling like we’re standing on sinking sand.
And that is why I am so grateful for the prophet Habakkuk. In Habakkuk’s desperate dialogue with God, he models a path from panic to praises of joy.
Habakkuk and his fellow Israelites can intimately empathize with our current panic. To be honest, their plight was far more devastating. In the late 7th century B.C., God informed Habakkuk of His impending judgment of Israel by the hands of the Babylonians. The judgment would be pandemic—sweeping across and through the entirety of Judah. No part of Israel would be sheltered from exile.
The first few lines of Habakkuk show us that he responded to the images before him much like we have reacted to our own global affliction: with panic! If I am honest, I would tell you that I think the loving response of God would have been to assuage Habakkuk’s fears and tell him all would be ok. But C.S. Lewis, in his book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, reminds us that God’s ways are not our ways: “‘Is he safe?’ Beaver replies. ‘Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he is good. He’s the King, I tell you.’”
No, God doesn’t give Habakkuk the safe answer. He gives him the good one—instruction on how to respond in crisis—live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4). Thus, in faith, Habakkuk moves from panic to prayer. And he teaches us how to do the same. Habakkuk’s prayer serves as a model for us to follow not just in this current global plight, but in any and every trial we face. In times of trouble, we must:
- Surrender to God by declaring our reliance on Him
- Steady our souls by remembering His sovereignty throughout history
- Sing His praises as we realize that the God who delivered our ancestors is the same God yesterday, today, and forever.
And friend, the world needs Christ followers to walk through these steps. At all times, but particularly in times of great trial. Like the fortresses of old, Christ’s followers are “living stones” being built into a “spiritual house,” with Christ as our “cornerstone” (1 Peter 2:4-8). According to Heather Holleman, in her book Guarded by Christ, “fortresses in the ancient world didn’t exist to simply bless the main inhabitant… Ancient palaces invited others in to protect, bless, celebrate, nourish and provide rest to them… Because we dwell in the fortress of God in our inner being, we offer a weary world refreshment and a sense of joy because we represent the Living God to others.”
Friends, in the midst of a world that’s turned upside down, let’s thank God for Habakkuk’s prayer, one that pointed to and rested in the God of Hope amidst seemingly hopeless circumstances. Let’s lift his prayers of reliance, remembrance, and rejoicing as well. And for certain, let’s be the spiritual house united by our Cornerstone and inviting others into the shelter of our unchanging Savior—King Jesus.