How long, Lord?
An Advent reflection by Marnie Klassen,
A Rocha Manitoba Communications Assistant
How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?¹
So begins the writing of the prophet Habakkuk. Habakkuk doesn’t understand what God is up to, doesn’t know how long it’s going to take, and honestly, isn’t even sure God is going to follow through.
Man alive, can I relate.
Some days, I look around at the world and I just can’t imagine that God is really redeeming all things. I so want to trust that, but… well, there are a lot of ‘but’s that get in the way. But climate change. But ecological degradation. Poverty. Racism. Polarization. Or, to get more specific: but the Peace River valley (where I grew up) is flooded. But the shores of Tuvalu are receding. But, God, the manic woman in the park is frightened.
God, why are you taking so long to fix this?
Somehow, by the time he’s finished writing, Habakkuk has changed his tune, has accepted his incomplete understanding and expresses his trust in God:
Though the cherry trees don’t blossom, and the strawberries don’t ripen,
Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted,
Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty,
I’m singing joyful praise to God.
I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my savior God.²
God is bigger than the boogeyman, VeggieTales once sang, so he must also be greater than our fears.³ But we don’t have to be fearless to trust God – Habakkuk sees the crops withering and praises God anyway. How long must I wait? he asks. The answer is probably longer than you’ll be alive. Is God redeeming all things? Yes. Will we see the fullness of this redemption in our lifetimes? Probably not.
So how, then, do we sing praise to God (or turn cartwheels of joy to God) while we wait? How do we hold in one hand our aches for the world, and in the other hand the endless goodness of God?
A couple of weeks ago theologian Sarah Bessey posted this thread⁴ on her Twitter:
I think these few lines beautifully illustrate the urgency of joy. We cannot hold the brokenness of the world with both hands. We need one hand clutching at joy and not letting go. I’m reminded that love isn’t meant to always be a challenge or a chore. Yes, we were made for love, which can be hard! We were also made for hope, for peace, and for joy (as the season of Advent reminds us).
My roommate is going with friends next week to get a Christmas tree. I anticipate the quiet evenings in the dim living room, the only light coming from the glittering boughs, John McCutcheon crooning sweet carols over the speakers. And I also look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ, God put on flesh, the Divine incarnate.