• Wayne Shelton

The Message of Habakkuk: How Can I Be Happy?

(Focal passage: 3:17-19)


Someone has keenly asked, ‘If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happy?’


All people want to be happy. ‘Happiness…is the motive of every action of every man, even those who hang themselves,’ Blaise Pascal said.


In his introduction to the book of Habakkuk, Mark Dever writes:


‘Clearly we look for happiness in different ways, as Pascal’s comment also suggests. Some people try to find happiness by losing themselves in serving others. Others try to find happiness by losing weight. Others lose themselves in introspection and psychotherapy, believing that a new pattern of thinking will put them on the road to happiness.’


Moreover, he notes that the publisher’s blurb on the back cover of one book on happiness raves about the book, ‘With a truly holistic approach that synthesizes the best of the many schools of thought’ this author ‘offers new hope – and new life.’ That’s quite a claim. New life? And for only $11.20 on Amazon.com?


‘Of course,’ Dever concludes,


‘Most people today do not reach for a book when they want to increase their happiness. Maybe they reach for the prescription, or the remote, or the credit card, or a new job, or a new bottle, or a new relationship. Several years ago in an interview, Laura Huxley, widow of author Aldous Huxley, observed, ‘Mail-order shopping is exactly like the Hindu hell – samsara – where there is only proliferating desire and sorrow. We are hypnotized into believing that two TV sets will make us twice as happy as one TV set.’


‘But no amount of new television sets, different friends, or better habits will finally deliver happiness to us. These things may mute our concerns, distract us from our emptiness, or even give us a temporary substitute. But they will not provide the kind of permanent, basic, abiding, lasting joy that we crave – that we were made for.’


How can I be happy? That is the eternal question that we turn to in our study of Habakkuk, the next minor prophet in this present series. The Minor Prophets are not called ‘minor’ because they are unimportant, but because they are brief. We know even less about Habakkuk than we know about Nahum, whom we considered in our last study. At least we knew the name of the town Nahum was from, even though we don’t know where that town was. With Habakkuk, we don’t even know that much. Habakkuk’s name appears in the book (1:1), but otherwise the man is unknown to us. His book is composed of three brief chapters

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As we consider this book together, we want to pursue the question of happiness, about which Habakkuk speaks with unusual clarity. Specifically, we will follow him through three questions:


1) HOW CAN I BE HAPPY WHEN IT SEEMS THAT GOD DOESN’T CARE?

2) HOW CAN I BE HAPPY WHEN GOD’S CARE IS SO STRANGE?

3) HOW CAN I BE HAPPY UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES?


As you prepare for the book of Habakkuk, ask yourself this question: ‘Can I be happy under any circumstances, or is there some set of circumstances that is so important in my life that I cannot be happy without them?’ Once you have answered that question, you will have found your god.


Spoiler alert: Dever writes,


“It is interesting that Habakkuk expresses his great contentment in God at the end of chapter 3, after he has been considering God, praying to God, meditating on God, and then observing this vision of God’s coming.” We should also learn more of God if we want to be happy and content. Just consider his promises for us in Christ! “Our God is honest. Our God is just. Our God is faithful to the covenant he has made This is the God we are called to love.”


Habakkuk learned that what he most wanted was this God. As Augustine said at the beginning of his autobiography, Confessions, “You have made us to delight in praising You; for You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in You” (Confessions, I.i.).


Michelle and I are eagerly anticipating being with you this coming Lord’s Day as we look at the book of Habakkuk and learn how we can rejoice in God always. We give thanks to the Lord and you for graciously granting us some time away to enjoy the coast and visit family.


For His Glory,

Pastor Wayne


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