Article of the week: A word for our time
12 March 2022
Captain Alison Hutchings looks at the Ukraine-Russia crisis through the lens of the prophet Habakkuk’s lament
AS the world continues to grapple with the political, economic and humanitarian implications of the Ukraine-Russia crisis, there is also a ‘grappling’ to be done by the Church. Certainly there are practical responses, and we must not hesitate to respond appropriately, but we must also consider the spiritual implications.
The prime minister, Boris Johnson, wrote that he was appalled by the events and described the crisis as ‘a catastrophe for our continent’. News reporters have sounded surprised that such a crisis could unfold in the 21st century.
It is a desperately sad situation, one that has moved me to tears, but the Bible makes it clear that such things are to be expected. ‘You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come’ (Matthew 24:6). We know that as we anticipate the coming again of Jesus, the world will increasingly feel chaotic and troubled.
Our first response may be one of confusion or anger. Why does God allow such conflict? How can these things happen? Injustices are all around us – locally, nationally and across the globe – from human trafficking to the destruction of the environment.
The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk feels like a prophet for our time. The book of Habakkuk is a lament from a man who feels overwhelmed by the injustice he sees before him: ‘How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralysed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted’ (1:2–4).
God answers Habakkuk in a most bewildering way. He says that he is going to allow a destructive Babylonian army to enter the land. Habakkuk doesn’t fully understand God’s methods. But he doesn’t give up and write God off. Instead, he says: ‘I will stand at my watch and station myself on the watchtower; and I will keep watch to see what he will say to me’ (2:1 Modern English Version).
Here we see an intentional watching, an active waiting. Habakkuk may not understand, but he waits and watches in expectation that God will speak – and that somehow God’s plans will prevail. And God does speak: ‘See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright – but the righteous person will live by his faith’ (2:4).
Whether or not we grasp all the political nuances of the Ukraine-Russia crisis, our instruction is to live by faith – to station ourselves at the lookout post and actively wait for God’s voice.
We don’t know what the coming days will hold or how the repercussions of this crisis might ripple into our lives. People are already struggling with the increased cost of living. Many are at breaking point. There are no easy answers.
During 2020 and 2021 the Covid-19 pandemic was a wake-up call to the Church, with many implications for who we are and how God’s Kingdom operates. In 2022, the Ukraine-Russia crisis is another.
Let us say with Habakkuk: ‘Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Sovereign Lord is my strength’ (3:18 and 19). Let us start there. Let us start with God! But there is also an urgent call to active waiting – a spiritual alertness. Let us not be found sleeping, but be faithful and obedient (see Matthew 25:1–13 and Luke 21:34–36). Let us seek righteousness and justice and live by faith in Christ alone.
This is a call to stand firm – not to be tossed to and fro (see Ephesians 4:14 and 2 Timothy 4:3), but to stay grounded, rooted in Christ and his word, equipped for battle. Only then will we be a true light to the world that desperately and urgently needs Christ.
May we in these days, above all other things, seek first the Kingdom of God and keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. May we be faithful in prayer and find joy in the hope and relationship we have in Jesus Christ our Lord.
‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.’
CAPTAIN HUTCHINGS IS CORPS OFFICER, SOUTHPORT