Injustice is everywhere around us. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by what I find when I scroll through my news feed: another public shooting; new abuse victims coming forward; the latest statistics on abortion or human trafficking; some public figure has used racial slurs, devaluing whole segments of the population. It feels like people invent new ways to ignore basic human dignity each day.
The prophet Habakkuk called it “violence”—deliberate and brutal hurt imposed on one person by another. Seeing it left him grieved, shocked, and tired. Habakkuk cried out, “How long, LORD, must I call for help?” (1:2).
The prophet’s words should remind us of the raw, pain-filled cries we find in the Bible’s psalms of lament (see Psalm 13:1–2; 22:1–2). The Bible doesn’t downplay this world’s brokenness. It doesn’t paint over the pain with pious words. Instead, it gives us true words that describes how we feel, allowing us to borrow these words and form them into our own desperate prayers.
I look at Habakkuk’s dark cry in particular as an invitation to go to God with my grief. I want to plead with Him about what I perceive to be His apathy in the face of our world of injustice. With the psalmist, I want to cry out to God: “Why do you hide and forget our affliction and oppression?” (Psalm 44:24).
Habakkuk implores us to plead with God from our own wretched corners—but not solely from our own corners. Because these words are in the Bible, they communicate more than our own personal griefs; they also communicate the griefs of the covenant community. In fact, there may be no better way to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15) than to offer prayers of lament with and for others.
Taking our cries of indignation and doubt to God is an act of personal and corporate faith. When we go to God with our complaints, we’re acknowledging the truth that He alone can solve our problems. Sometimes we find that God answers these prayers in ways that are clear and surprising. On other occasions, our requests appear to remain unanswered. But even then there’s a great treasure in praying during times of suffering.
Only in the midst of our laments can we become acquainted with the God who suffered. You see, Christ joins us in our pain, and He prays with us. In our affliction, we come to know Him as the One who cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46). Though we may feel abandoned, with no understanding of why we’re suffering, we can still trust God in the midst of our pain. Our suffering is not random or cruel; it’s purposeful and redemptive.
Written by Jared Kennedy