Listen to sermon The experience of pain and suffering have little meaning in and of themselves. Meaning requires context.
Gabriel Marcel, the Christian existentialist philosopher, would talk about how the human person is a participant in, rather than a spectator of, reality and the life of the world. He writes: "All human life develops in the manner of a drama."
What do you consider the 'principle' drama in your life? In other words, what's "gospel" to you? What is the underlying story that puts all your experiences into context?
All of Habakkuk 3 is a recapitulation of the Exodus. The pestilence and the plagues. That's how God got them out of Egypt. The shaking of the ground. That's Mt. Sinai. The trampling of the sea - that's the crossing of the Red Sea.
In the face of impending evil, what Habakkuk does is go back to the story of the Exodus. It was his gospel. It was the principle drama of the Israeli people that put all of their life into context. The children of Israel were in slavery and bondage, and they didn't have the power to get themselves out - but God came and he miraculously intervened by entering into history and he brought them out, and they were saved – not by what they did, but by what HE did. That's was their gospel. What Habakkuk is doing is telling himself and reminding himself of this gospel - until he gets to v.16 and says, "OKAY. Now I got peace."
You see this all through the bible - the process of remembering context. Often that process begins with intense self-examination. In Psalm 42, the psalmist writes, "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?" It's only after that he writes, "Put your hope in God." In Psalm 103, the psalmist writes: "Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s."
In the face of evil and difficulty, they remind their souls of the One who entered time and space to save them. It gives their experience of grief and sorrow context for meaning and hope.
What is your gospel? What is the lens (story) by which you interpret your experience of pain, grief and sorrow?