To wrestle or to embrace?

As of late, we have all found ourselves in the midst of a pandemic. Some cities have been hit harder than others. I am located in Kentucky which has not been hit particularly hard yet. However, we in the healthcare field in Kentucky are not so foolish to think that it is not coming. Inside each of us is a general uneasiness and anxiety related to what lies ahead in the coming months. However, we are not the first people in history to experience these emotions. There is a book in the Bible that many people have never heard of called the minor prophet of Habakkuk. I know that the name sounds like something that is the result of a bad chest cold, but the book, bearing the name of its author speaks to our time. The name Habakkuk is unique in Hebrew. It stems from the root word that translates into the English word “embrace.” His name literally means one who embraces. It has also been translated to mean one who wrestles. This unique name offers insight into the character of Habakkuk and the contents of the book. Habakkuk is told by God that the neighboring Babylonians are about to invade and conquer the Hebrew people as a consequence to them falling away from their faith. Obviously this alarms Habakkuk and he wrestles (like his name implies) to understand why God would allow such a thing to happen. At one point in the book, Habakkuk gives the imagery of standing upon the city walls watching the onslaught approach and being unable to do anything to stop it. He continues his dialogue with God trying to make sense of all he is hearing. In spite of his knowledge of the coming devastation, he is able to end the book with a prayer that acknowledges that God is ultimately in control. He is able to embrace at the end of his prayer that God is his source of strength and demonstrates a confidence in the plans of God in spite of not fully understanding them. So, you see, as his name implies, he goes from wrestling with God to embracing the goodness of God in spite of the circumstances. Like Habakkuk, we find ourselves in uncertain times. We find ourselves feeling as though we may be standing upon the city walls awaiting the onslaught. It is in our nature to wrestle with God. We struggle to see God in the dark times. This is not because he isn’t there, but it is more due to us being distracted by our own anxiety. Carl Jung, the famous psychiatrist, was once interviewed in a rare televised recording. As a part of that interview, the interviewer ask Jung if he believed in God. Keep in mind, Jung had a somewhat bumpy history with religion. His father was a pastor. Jung grew up to see the value in spirituality, but struggled with organized religion. Some of his writings were even antagonistic to Christianity. Jung also faced the difficulties and the evils of World War II up close and personal. He was a man who had a keen understanding of the evils that man is capable of and had periods in his life where he questioned God. Jung could have very easily turned away from any type of faith, but he was a wrestler. He struggled to understand the human experience both for himself and for those he worked with. He never gave up on trying to answer the difficult questions of humanity. As he answered the question before the camera, he turned, looked thoughtfully at the camera and said: “No, I don’t believe…I know.” Jung had made a transition by this point in his life from labeling to experiencing God. Like Habakkuk, he went from wrestling with God over the plan to embracing the fact that God is there even in the difficult and challenging moments in life. In our current climate, we wrestle with making meaning of the difficulties we face as a result of our current pandemic crisis. We struggle to see God in the dark moments. Bodies are filling makeshift morgues, healthcare systems are overwhelmed by those seeking treatment, and the country sits quarantined and self isolated wondering what to make of it all. We sit in a place of anxiety wondering when it will all end, but still we wrestle. We wonder where God is in these moments. Some blame God for this tragedy. These are natural reactions in our human efforts to blame someone or something for our struggles and pain. However, God is not daunted by our questions, challenges, and feelings. There continues to be a plan. Good can come from bad, and God does exist and is intimately present with us even in suffering. So, like Habakkuk we wrestle with life and making meaning of the things going on around us, but may we also be like Habakkuk in his final prayer when he embraces the presence of God and the goodness of God in spite of the circumstance. We stand on the city walls awaiting what comes next. We may have fear and we may not understand the plan, but we do embrace the one who makes the plan and we know that he walks with us even during the dark times. I do not have all the answers and I can’t begin to speculate on the future, but I do know that we do not walk this journey alone.-

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