Can you find the words embrace, endure and wrestle in your personal life history?
Habakkuk is a book in the bible named after the prophet who wrote it. Apparently, it’s not a common Hebrew name so its meaning is also a little obscure. One of the meanings attributed to Habakkuk is “embrace”. Another is “the wrestler”.
The NIV Woman’s Study Bible's introduction of Habakkuk says, “God called Habakkuk to embrace what He had called him to endure”. Wow!
We can look at these meanings, ‘embrace’ and ‘wrestle’ and see how they are kin to being opposites. What I find incredible is that both meanings for Habakkuk’s name are what he had to ‘live,’ in effect. He had to embrace what he also wrestled with.
That got me thinking. We generally wrestle with circumstances we need to endure, don't we? Because they're tough. But do we ever learn to embrace them? That would mean we have an open attitude towards them; a welcoming posture, so to speak.
If we look at Hosea, another book in the bible named after the prophet who wrote it, he also had to embrace – literally his wife – what he was called to endure – his marriage relationship and his wife’s infidelities. God commanded him to go find an unfaithful woman and marry her, then prove his own faithfulness to her, being a role model of sorts to Israel for God. Her own inner healing came through the course of that proven faithfulness, just as our healing comes through God’s proven faithfulness over time, though we prove ourselves unfaithful. Hosea had to embrace what God called him to endure.
What else does this teach me? God doesn’t ask us to do easy things! It’s not all skipping through flower fields. It’s threshing those fields, cultivating, picking and pressing those flowers in order to draw out the oil produced from them, which brings goodness. God’s picture for us is to embrace what we have to thresh and endure, in order to produce the aromatic and healing oil.
Endurance ought to lead to better character. It makes sense to intentionally make that a goal of any test. The bible even speaks about facing our trials with joy!
James 1:2-5 describes it this way. (Are you ready? Get ready – this is from The Voice translation).
Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing. If you don’t have all the wisdom needed for this journey, then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking.
God didn’t just tell the prophets in the bible to speak on His behalf. He equipped them to be able to embrace what He asked them to endure while they carried His messages. He gave them such conviction, and such heart for their purpose they had to see it through. Even Jonah. He was one angry prophet. He didn’t want to embrace anything God said! I don’t think he necessarily wrestled with his task any more than the others, but he seemed more angry about it. He endured it under duress and made his task and his life so much harder because of that. God showed Jonah unbelievable patience and kindness under the scorching desert sun but was also unrelenting in His expectations.
It’s easy to get angry during trials. The first thing most of us ask is, “why is this happening to me?” “Where is God in this?” (Actually we're saying, how dare this happen to me?!)
I have this thought. Seek God, not for what He can do in our circumstances but for what He can do in us, so then, we ourselves are able to affect our circumstances.
Queen Esther and Mordecai are beautiful examples of this. They took the shock of their situation – the intent by an enemy to annihilate the Jewish people – and simply stood up for what was right. In doing what was right they had thoughts and followed through on those thoughts.
God is a miracle worker, but usually, He requires us to travel through our circumstances in order to change and to bring change; to become less abrasive, less dictatorial, less selfish, less controlling, less afraid, less unkind, less self-pitying, stronger, wiser, more resilient, more understanding, more controlled, more gracious, more forgiving – more like Him and in-tune with His Spirit.
Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (NIV)
Experiences need to encourage and teach us so that we can endure. Endurance can be a real slog.
But what endurance has taught me is the need for it!
I got my backbone through my struggles. I remember a time when (oh, I laugh now, but I didn’t then!) a friend’s mentor said to her about me, “she needs to grow a backbone”!
A counsellor said to me, “your fears are going to cripple you” as a warning to find my backbone.
Little did I realise I actually had one!
God led me through a wilderness period of many years to strengthen it. I can now be grateful for the intensity of that strengthening period. But it was hard, so hard, and most of the time I didn’t know it was God chiselling me. Most of the time I didn’t understand and was conflicted and consumed by the pain I was experiencing. I questioned and demanded God.
God’s amazing. He sees all of that and keeps guiding us through, promising to complete the work He started in us until it’s DONE – and so often, we don’t even realise He’s got His hand on us, and is ordering our steps. How gracious He is. How faithful and loving, to do that when we don’t even recognise Him.
Psalm 119:71 commends our affliction, saying we learn of God’s ways through those times. Some translations use the word humbled instead of affliction. This is God’s purpose.
There’s purpose in endurance. Embrace the pain, don't be consumed by it. Be thankful for the things you don’t understand and what you don’t see – acknowledge in faith that God is directing every single step you take and one day you’ll have an ’a-haaa’ moment.
Our process is part of our destination.
Jesus said in Luke 24:44 “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about
Everything in our life must be fulfilled too – for those He foreknew He also predestined (Romans 8:29). What He has started He will also complete (Philippians 1:6). Our lives are not random events but our days are predetermined, so whatever we go through, He has already gone before us and determined the outcome. Not one moment in one day goes by without God's notice or intention for us. How's that for living with purpose?
Do you want to be effective and productive in your challenges, being able to embrace what you’re more predisposed to wrestle with?
It’s ok to wrestle – our doubts lead to our greater faith and understanding. Look at Jacob in the old testament who wrestled all night with God. He came out with an understanding of who God was, the need for a hip replacement and the knowledge that God had also dislocated his thinking. So much so his name was changed to reflect his changed nature. He wrestled with God even as he embraced God that night. In the end, he finally found rest and restoration.
Embrace whatever He is calling you to endure with all courage and patience. Even though the calling may cause you pain, I pray you are able to receive His call, His embrace, and His endurance, so that you will not lose heart in whatever you’re facing, but find the hope to which He’s called you.
Habakkuk 2:1, 4 (CSB)
I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the lookout tower. I will watch to see what He will say to me and what I should reply about my complaint.
…. the righteous one will live by his faith.
Isaiah 40:12-13 (NIV)
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, or with the breadth of His hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who can fathom the Spirit (or mind) of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as His counsellor?
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NCV)
We have small troubles for a while now, but they are helping us gain an eternal glory that is much greater than the troubles. We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever.