The late theologian Karl Rahner observed that in every church there are two basic forms of spirituality: summer Christianity and winter Christianity.
He wrote that “Summer Christians like their spirituality hot. They want to feel something, experience something and be moved by the power of the Spirit. They are happy to tell you that the Lord answered their prayers and willingly offer specific examples. They come to worship to be with others and to praise God in a spirit of community and friendship. Wintry Christians experience faith in a far different fashion and often find themselves melting in the presence of such heat. Wintry Christians believe God should be present, but live their lives frequently feeling God’s absence.”
Even if you most identify as a summer Christian, there have likely been times when you have experienced what it means to live out faith in a season that is dark and without hope. You may have even felt as if God were absent from you. In the bleak mid-winter, you may have even had a complaint with the way that God was handling your life. Ever complain to God about how he is working things out for you, or someone that you love? Ever just sit quietly and tearfully before the Lord because you don’t even have the strength to utter a word? If so, then you know what it means to live out faith in the winter. It isn’t easy.
Habakkuk was one of the prophets of God. The office was not an enviable one. Prophets lived and worked in the midst of the winter, in the midst of the pain and mess of the life of God’s wayward children. What is unusual about the prophet Habakkuk is that instead of voicing God’s complaint to God’s people, Habakkuk voiced his complaint with God, to God. The first thing we read in Chapter one are these words: “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” Habakkuk will then offer another complaint. Then he takes his stand on the watchtower to wait for God’s response. In doing this, he models two very important things for those who are moving through a winter season.
First, go ahead and raise your complaint to God. In doing so, you live authentically and boldly before the Creator. He wants us to give voice not only to our praise, but also to our questions. Second, actively watch for his response. Trust God to not only hear the cries of your heart, but also to respond as only God can. Habakkuk gives voice to his concerns, and then he watches for God to respond, which God does. Interesting enough, God’s response to the prophet is to “wait” for the divine vision (answer). Is there anything we despise more than having to wait, especially when all around us seems so dark? Habakkuk is told to wait. Yet, having received this answer, the prophet models a third faithful response when living out faith in the midst of the winter. After being told to wait, he worships God “according to Shigionoth.” This word, Shigionoth, is defined as a type of music full of passion and the quick changes and movement of strong emotion. Think Richard Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries.” Or, perhaps, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird.” Or better yet, think of these final words of Habakkuk.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
A faith like this, even in the midst of the winter when our faith is tested, means that we can wait with a heart that rejoices in the God of our salvation, who through Jesus Christ loves us, saves us and is never ever far from us.
Chris Leonard is a pastor at Rock Presbyterian ECO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.