Habakkuk the prophet cried out, “How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen!”
Have you ever felt the same way? Have you asked God for help but feel like you don’t get an answer?
We see violence and pray that it end but it seems that the Lord does not intervene. We see ruin and destruction. What is the Lord doing about it?
There are the standard answers that people might give when prayers aren’t answered like, “You aren’t asking for the right thing or God will answer at the right time.”
I believe these might be the correct answers sometimes. Then I say if I am not asking for the right thing, let me know what the right thing is. If it isn’t the right time now, then I ask the Lord to give me patience (which I need more of anyway) to wait. In either case, I think of what “the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” Yes, Lord give me more faith. Help me to trust in you.
How did the Lord answer Habakkuk’s lament? He told him to write down what he saw so that when it came to fulfillment, Habakkuk would know that he could count on the Lord to fulfill his promises in the right way at the right time.
Here I might encourage you to keep a spiritual journal. When things are going well, you write down what you are thankful for and what the Lord has done to help you. Then, you can use that as a source of hope when things aren’t going well. When things don’t go the way you want, write down what the struggles are. Then, when the Lord changes things, you can refer to the struggles that you wrote down to see how the Lord answered your prayers in his way and on his time.
Getting back to the apostles’ plea, “Increase our faith,” how did the Lord answer? By saying, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
I don’t know about you but I haven’t moved any trees through my words but on a literal level I have never tried and I don’t expect to. What I do seek is help with the struggles of my life.
What are the struggles you ask the Lord for help with?
Is it sin? What temptations do you struggle with?
Is it an illness? The loss of a job?
What about struggles with decisions about life itself?
October is Respect Life Month. This year the theme is “Christ Our Hope in Every Season of Life.” When one hears the term “respect life”, one might immediately think of life in the womb. When we think of struggles in the womb, we might think of an unplanned pregnancy or a child in the womb facing lifelong health issues. This can be real struggles in which we ask the Lord to “increase our faith” so that we might always choose life.
These can be real struggles of faith. It can be hard to do the right thing. Sometimes we fall short. There is always hope because God is always merciful when we confess our sins with a contrite heart. God wants to forgive us.
Such struggles of life in the womb are a critical part of respecting life but respecting life is about more than just life in the womb. That’s why this year’s theme is “Christ Our Hope in Every Season of Life.”
The end of life often comes with struggles. Do we rely on our faith when making decisions about end of life issues? Again, we ask the Lord to “increase our faith.”
Still, respecting life isn’t just about life in the womb and at the end. We need to respect life all the way in between, from womb to tomb. Do we treat people with dignity, respecting them, in our daily lives? Do you treat others with love and compassion or do you see them simply as a means to get what you what?
Here I turn to the words of our psalm response, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” When I hear this verse, I often wonder why someone would harden their heart when they hear God’s voice. Hearing this verse in the context of life decisions, I wonder if it means that we need to listen with an open heart when the Lord might give us an answer that we don’t want to hear. When we don’t like the answer we receive, we might harden our hearts to say that isn’t from God.
Are you ready to “bow down” and “kneel before the LORD” to hear what God has to say and to trust him to “with the strength that comes from God”?
What are we really asking for when we say, “increase our faith”? How much do we want to increase and in what way? Do we want just enough faith to get through the struggle we face but little enough that we don’t have to change how we live our lives?
Here I recall Paul’s words to Timothy, “stir into flame the gift of God.” When Paul writes this to Timothy, he is speaking of what Timothy received “through the imposition” of hands in what we call ordination but that doesn’t mean that Paul’s words aren’t relevant to us.
We all receive the gift of faith in our baptism. We need to ask to take the gift of faith that we already have within us and stir it into flame. And I mean “flame,” not just some smoldering coals to get us through life. No, we need to ask God to “stir into flame” the gift of the Holy Spirit within us to shape our whole life.