C.S. Lewis as he worked through the grief of losing his wife, Joy, to cancer, wrote the following,
Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be—or so it feels—welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will be come. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?
I tried to put some of these thoughts to C. this afternoon. He reminded me that the same thing seems to have happened to Christ: ‘Why hast though forsaken me?’ I know. Does that make it easier to understand?
Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’
This captures the struggle in Habakkuk. Josiah’s reign has ended in defeat. Jehoiakim has been installed as king by Pharaoh Neco who has taken his younger brother back to Egypt. By Jeremiah’s account and those of Kings and the Chronicler, Jehoikim’s reign was oppressive and cruel. Would the Lord let it stand? Would he answer the defiance?
Habakkuk gets his answer from the Lord in the form of the Babylonians. Nebuchadnezzer has inherited his father’s throne and has subjugated not only Assyria, but these Chaldeans have driven Neco back to the Sinai peninsula. The cruelty of this new hoard was worse than the oppression of Jehoiakim. And for Habakkuk, it all seems too much, too hard, too cruel. It is from the vantage point of the rampart of the wall of Jerusalem, that Habakkuk asks, “Why Lord? Why?”
Lewis, was caught in a similar trap. Facing the reality of a spouse being diagnosed with cancer, the cancer going into remission, the joyful days of companionship, the shock of cancer’s tenacity, and his wife’s body succumbing to terminal illness, Lewis found himself on the ramparts calling out to God and waiting for the reply.
Lewis, as he says, was not so much in danger of ceasing to believe in God. The temptation, he said, was in coming to believe such dreadful things about him. Lewis knew though, God was God and he was not. Lewis knew about suffering and loss and forlorn hope and death. Lewis also knew that he was part of an army–a soldier who must obey his commander, take his post and be ready to do what he was commanded.
In “God in the Dock”, Lewis gets at how the contemporary world would deduce that the cruelties of circumstances or the presence of evil were either license for unbelief or vindication for it. Lewis did not think so because he realized that if evil existed and was hated, then it’s counter-part, it’s antithesis, must also be real. The reality of evil is not proof of the non-existence of good, it is the contrary: proof that good must exist. And so, the real fight in the soul of the believer is to trust and obey and love God in spite of circumstances of one’s life.
Habakkuk is not “calling God out” like some ANE Bruce Almighty, Habakkuk is taking his station as a faithful soldier. In days when it seems that the world is falling apart around your head, the station–the place where the faithful make their stand is on the rampart–to watch and wait–“to look to what he will say to me.”