category: Advent

Advent Reflection: Day 14

Saturday, December 12

Habakkuk 3:13–19; Matthew 21: 28–32

I don’t know what it is about being in the car, me driving, my six–year–old daughter sitting in the back, but something about this situation prompts her to ask challenging questions such as “why are people mean?” and “why does God let people get sick?” She asks these same questions repeatedly, which indicates to me that either I’m not answering them to her satisfaction or that they are difficult questions worth asking again and again. The passage from Habakkuk reminded me of my daughter’s questions, which occur to everyone. Why do the “bad” or “wrong” people win? Why does God allow “bad” people to hurt us? Are we being taught a lesson? Suffering, our own and others, commands our full attention, and so it’s natural to wonder why, to struggle with these questions. But will we ever know why? And what if focusing on these questions is just a distraction?

I forget how easily something different than suffering can happen, a different story that is an alternative to the struggle between “good” and “bad,” the unanswerable why. When I chase after understanding, I forget about blessings. The simplicity of blessings. Faith, for one.

A child, for another. The hymn at the end of Habakkuk reminds me to let go of asking why and to rely on faith in the Lord to sustain me, to make me as fast and strong as deer, able to climb to great heights.

Suffering is unexpected and undeserved but so are blessings. As we go through Advent and prepare for the birth of Jesus, I wonder, were the people of His time expecting Him? Or were they expecting suffering? Were they struggling to understand why the world was such a mess and why God wasn’t doing anything about it? And yet, something good and amazing was about to happen. Were they anticipating joy? A blessing, a gift, given to all, even to those who at first say no but then later change their minds, available even to those we judge as mean or wrong or bad, as the Parable of the Two Sons tells us in Matthew. This blessing is an easy question. All we have to do is answer yes.

(Reprint from 2017)

Cheryl Duffus
Associate Professor of English

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