Living between Habakkuk and Romans

By MICHAEL J. BROOKS | Guest Columnist

Note: This is an opinion column.

We brought church leaders together to decide a way forward, as many congregations are doing these days. One leader earlier told me plainly, “I’m depressed.” I’m grateful he felt comfortable to tell me his honest feelings, knowing I wouldn’t quickly condemn him as unspiritual. His admission gave me a little more freedom to share my feelings at the public meeting.

I told attendees I found myself somewhere between Habakkuk and Romans.

Habakkuk is known as the earnest questioner of the Old Testament. He first asked the Lord if he knew how sinful his people were, though it’s somewhat brazen to ask God if he’s overlooked something in his world! The Lord responded that he knew his people’s sin and planned to raise up Babylon to punish them.

Habakkuk complained a second time, saying in effect, “Lord, they’re more sinful than us!” The Lord assured his prophet that Babylon, too, would be punished at some point (Habakkuk 1-2).

I was looking forward to a good Spring season in our church. We baptized in January and February, had two Bible classes clambering for more chairs and welcomed several new families who brought unique contributions to our congregation. We adopted an outreach program asking everyone to focus on “their one” for prayer and invitations in the Easter season. It was a time of excitement.

Then the bottom dropped out.

Community contact was restricted, and we’ve not had public worship since March 15. And I find many church members in one of two camps. The first group says, “ignore the torpedoes; full speed ahead!” They believe the government can’t tell us what to do and we need to press on in public meetings. Group two is afraid of returning due to virus contagion.

Most pastors find themselves in this predicament today. Leadership is tougher than I can remember, and it’s futile to think we’ll find a way to please everybody. As one of our state missionaries said lately, “If you want to make everyone happy, sell ice cream. But if you’re out of my favorite, you won’t make me happy.”

We may find ourselves questioning the ways of God, asking “why?” as Habakkuk did. But deep in our hearts we know the triumph of Romans 8.

The Apostle Paul said, “We are more than conquerors through him that loved us so,” and “everything works together to bring good for those who are called to do God’s purpose.”

One day we’ll look back on this pandemic with clearer vision. We’ll see how God guided and protected his church, making her greater than ever before.

As television preacher Rex Humbard used to say, “Often we see the plan of God more clearly through the rear-view mirror.”

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.