Why Does God Allow Evil? Habakkuk Asks, God Answers


“Justice is a joke!” Habakkuk gets real in his cry out to God over suffering in the world. What does his heated talk tell us about God’s response to evil, especially when He appears indifferent?

Everywhere we look the world is on fire. Our country grows more divided by the day. Mass shooting deaths of schoolchildren now outnumber casualties of deployed US military servicemen. Depression, anxiety and suicide are climbing at an alarming rate, especially within the church. There are more slaves today than existed during the transatlantic slave era. Not to mention, the crisis of starvation, disease, war, assault around the world.

I am not one to marinate in despair, but with our constant online exposure, I find myself overwhelmed, nearly paralyzed at times. I’m overwhelmed because there seems to be no end to pain. I’m overwhelmed because God’s presence is not always clear to me. I’m overwhelmed because I literally don’t know what to do, and that can lead me to point the finger heavenward.

It represents the internal battle to make peace between our trust and God’s sovereignty when life injustice persists

During a similar bout of sadness, I stumbled on a passage from Habakkuk. Presented in the midst of my heart’s silent aching and confusion.

The passage is Habakkuk 1:1-16, 2:1-4 in The Message translation.

The first passage reads Habakkuk’s first cry to God: “GOD, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? How many times do I have to yell, “Help! Murder! Police!” before you come to the rescue? Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day? Anarchy and violence break out, quarrels and fights all over the place. Law and order fall to pieces. Justice is a joke. The wicked have the righteous hamstrung and stand justice on its head.”

Habakkuk’s lament is uncomfortably familiar. The world is on fire, and what is God going to do about it? His response is one you may not expect:

God responds: “Brace yourself for a shock. Something’s about to take place and you’re going to find it hard to believe. I’m about to raise up Babylonians to punish you, Babylonians, fierce and ferocious—World-conquering Babylon, grabbing up nations right and left, a dreadful and terrible people, making up its own rules as it goes.”

He goes on to describe the vicious bloodthirsty murderous group, who “collect victims like squirrels gathering nuts.” They’re “brazen in sin.”

My flesh screams at this response. Not only is God acknowledging the darkness, he seems to be permitting their chaos to swell. It represents the internal battle to make peace between our trust and God’s sovereignty when life’s injustice persists. It’s the place our minds are tempted to travel when things appear to go from bad to worse.

Habakkuk responds as expected: “GOD, you’re from eternity, aren’t you? Holy God, we aren’t going to die, are we? GOD, you chose Babylonians for your judgment work? Rock-solid God, you gave them the job of discipline? But you can’t be serious! You can’t condone evil! So why don’t you do something about this? Why are you silent now? This outrage! Evil men swallow up the righteous and you stand around and watch!”

Helpless. Habakkuk’s cry is fraught with helplessness. When God doesn’t appear to act, where do we find Him, why is He standing by? When chaos carries on, how do you restore hope when things continue to unravel?

Habakkuk goes on to say: “You’re treating men and women as so many fish in the ocean, swimming without direction, swimming but not getting anywhere. Then this evil Babylonian arrives and goes fishing. He pulls in a good catch.”

Just when he seems to be at the brink of exasperation, God prepares the frustrated prophet for His response. God says: “Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait!”

After a lengthy, emotional conversation, God’s final response is plain: “Look at that man, bloated by self-importance—full of himself but soul-empty. But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive.”

God’s response is profound. Rather than explain, justify and defend against Habakkuk’s questions as our instincts would inform He instead redirects us entirely. He shakes off all the layers of circumstance and suffering and boils down to foundations; the very souls at play. There are those who are living soul-empty and those living for Him, fully alive.

His word is a reminder of our place, His reign and ultimate victory that’s already been won. How do we approach the evil in the world? By walking in the calling of our lives, living fully alive in Him. When our hearts and minds lurch at injustice, we return to the same instruction, walk as He’s called you to. Here and now. Some will be called to the “front lines” serving internationally and breaking into the dark corners of human trafficking. Some will be called to serve the unseen homeless in their local city. Some will be called to simply serve their family and community well. The point is, we have not been granted the immeasurable wisdom of God.

Our hearts are intended to break for the weary but not to burden ourselves with the duty to fix it. He’s taken care of it and will continue to, and to see His kingdom come we have to participate. What Habakkuk’s very real talk with God revealed is this; He is the victor, and we are His hands and feet. If only we would focus on playing our parts, we’ll drench the darkness in light. Just as God advised, write it down, commit it to memory, we’re going to need it.