A ripple of hope

“Why do the wicked prosper?” It is a question as old as history. Habakkuk asked it 2,600 years ago and we are still asking it today.

“How long am I to cry for help,” he asks, “while you will not listen, to cry “Oppression!” in your ear and you will not save?” Often, today, people will say, “I prayed and prayed, but I got no answer. I don’t know what to do.”

But Habakkuk received an answer, and it became a famous answer because it was taken up by Paul in his letter to the Romans (1:17) and later by Luther who initiated the greatest reform in the history of the Church so far: “the upright man will live by his faithfulness” (Hab 2:4). A person will find life, that is, the fulfilment of all his desires though his or her faith.

The difficulty for Habakkuk, and for us, is that we want the answer we expect. We approach God with our project proposal all mapped out. “This is what I want you to do. All you have to do is agree with how I see things should work out.” Well, as we even put it like that we know it sounds a bit phoney. In our hearts we know that we cannot dictate to God what he should do.

Still, the answer to Habakkuk, as well as to Paul, Luther and us, is a bit tough. “Live by faith?” “You mean just trust in God and wait, no matter how long?” Yes, that is part of it. We are to trust in God that he is at work and that, step by step, a solution will emerge. But trust is only part of it. Trust, or faith, has to be shown also in action. I cannot just sit on my hands and wait.

I cry out to God for a solution but then I do everything in my power to bring about a solution. This is the difficult bit. It is relatively easy to pray. But the really challenging bit is to work in every possible way to combine our prayer with action; to show our faith in deeds.

I always remember the story of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island. When he arrived, he and his fellow political prisoners were issued with short trousers. He immediately objected that this was not dignified for an adult political prisoner. He was ignored for a long time but eventually he won his point.

There was no banner headline across the world, PRISONERS ISSUED WITH LONGS, but it was a small victory and small victories tend to grow into big ones.

“A ripple of hope is created”, as Bobby Kennedy once said, which can “build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Faith nurtures action and action draws courage from faith.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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