Frowning Providence

Let me be honest, these devotions have not been easy to write. Habakkuk 1 is one of the more depressing chapters in the Bible. It starts with Habakkuk addressing God’s silence in the midst of a sinful nation. God’s response of raising up the Chaldeans to judge His people was not the answer Habakkuk was expecting. The chapter ends with a confused prophet waiting to hear back from God. 

But we need Habakkuk 1 in our lives because life is not always easy, joyful, and carefree. This is true for the believer and unbeliever, the saint and the sinner, the young and the old. Judah’s coming judgment was the result of their sin, but that isn’t the case for all tough circumstances we face. Sometimes we just don’t know what God is doing or why things are happening. 

As He told Habakkuk, “I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” (Habakkuk 1:5). So the book of Habakkuk teaches us how to live by faith under a frowning providence. 

You may have heard the phrase “frowning providence,” if you’re familiar with William Cowper’s hymn God Moves in a Mysterious Way. Facing depression and other life difficulties, Cowper wrote this verse:

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.”


I love these words, because they guide us to a faithful response when faced with trying times. But most of all, he reminds us of God’s goodness even in the worst of circumstances. Yes, the frowning providence we face may seem unbearable, but God is still good and working for the good of His people. 

You know where we see this most clearly? The cross of Christ. If ever there was a frowning providence, it was when the sinless Son of God was crucified. This was God’s plan (Acts 2:23), yet it was the darkest time the world has ever known. But out of this great darkness came the brightest light, as Jesus was raised from the dead. Behind a frowning providence, there was a smiling face.

So how should we end this week? First, read all three chapters of Habakkuk, so you can see what God is teaching us through this prophet. Second, take some time to grow in wonder of God who brings light from darkness, life from death, and joy in the midst of sorrow. And third, grow your affections for Jesus who bore a judgment worse than the Chaldeans in order that we might experience grace greater than all the riches of the world.

P.S. And If you have time, Google the rest of Cowper’s hymn.

By Philip Jones

Philip and his wife, Stacy, have been attending Immanuel since 2015. They are blessed to be raising four kids. His passion in ministry is to help others follow Jesus through teaching, preaching, and personal discipleship.

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