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Table of Contents
 
Title Page
Copyright Page
Dedication
PREFACE
THE PARADOXICAL COMMANDMENTS
 
CHAPTER 1 - The Prophet Who Confronted God
 
THE PROPHET HABAKKUK
A TURBULENT TIME
THE BOOK OF HABAKKUK
 
CHAPTER 2 - The Anguish of Habakkuk
 
HABAKKUK’S FIRST COMPLAINT
GOD’S ANSWER TO HABAKKUK’S FIRST COMPLAINT
HABAKKUK’S SECOND COMPLAINT
 
CHAPTER 3 - In God’s Time, Not Our Time
CHAPTER 4 - The Lessons of the Five Woes
 
THE FIVE WOES
 
CHAPTER 5 - Living by Faith
 
A TRUSTING RELATIONSHIP
UP TO EACH OF US
FAITH AND GOD’S PRESENCE
CONNECTING WITH THE HEALING POWER OF FAITH
FAITH AND FACTS
FULLY ALIVE IN FAITH
 
CHAPTER 6 - Faith Versus Beliefs
 
CONFIDENCE AND TRUST IN GOD
BELIEFS ABOUT GOD
CHANGING BELIEFS, UNCHANGING FAITH
 
CHAPTER 7 - The Unshakable Faith of Habakkuk
 
REJOICING IN THE LORD
 
CHAPTER 8 - A Vision for Christians Today
CHAPTER 9 - Your Own Vision: An Invitation
 
READER’S GUIDE FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
REFERENCES
Acknowledgements
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
notes

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To the Reverend John Bolin, S.M.,
wise counselor and good friend

PREFACE
I find it harder and harder to read the newspaper or watch the news. There are so many reasons to be discouraged about our world—wars, genocide, millions starving, climatic change, environmental degradation, threats of pandemics. And the Cold War may be over, but there are still enough nuclear weapons to kill every person on the planet.
What does it mean to have faith in a world that often seems headed for final destruction? What are we supposed to do to fulfill God’s purposes?
The prophet Habakkuk provided us with insights that can help each of us think about these questions and search for our own answers. The Old Testament book that he wrote 2,600 years ago in a time of crisis and danger for the Hebrews is highly relevant today. It is a book about Habakkuk’s struggle to understand what God was doing, and it is a book of extraordinary faith.
Habakkuk had a vision of a conversation with God. It was a vision about what God planned to do about the violence and injustice in Judah. God’s plans included the destruction of Judah by a foreign power. Habakkuk had faith and trusted God even in the face of devastation and death. Nothing could stop him from rejoicing in the Lord. His vision is a magnificent aid to our own understanding of faith, as well as the perfect springboard for our own visions about the will of God and the future of our planet.
I was barely aware of the book of Habakkuk before my friend, the Reverend Don Asman, called it to my attention. “I want to show you something,” he said, as he pulled out his pocket computer with its complete copy of the Bible. What he showed me was the last three verses of the book of Habakkuk:
 
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.
 
The three verses resonated with me because they have the same spirit as the ten Paradoxical Commandments that I wrote in 1968, when I was a college sophomore. The commandments were part of a booklet I wrote for student leaders titled The Silent Revolution. I created the Paradoxical Commandments to help student leaders focus on finding personal meaning, even when the going gets tough. I told them that if they had the meaning, they didn’t have to have the glory.
After the booklet was published, people started sharing the Paradoxical Commandments with others. They put the commandments up on their walls, passed them along to their friends, put them into speeches, and published them in books. Today it is estimated that the commandments have been used by millions of people all over the world.
I think there are several reasons that the Paradoxical Commandments continue to spread around the world. First, they focus on finding meaning, and people are hungry for meaning. Second, they are not about the doctrines that divide us but about the fundamental values that we have in common as human beings. Third, they are short and easy to share. Fourth, they aren’t suggestions; they are commandments. They challenge people to do the right thing. No excuses.
In 1997, I learned that Mother Teresa had put the Paradoxical Commandments up on the wall of her children’s home in Calcutta. That discovery changed my life. It seemed to me that God was sending me a message. I felt called to speak and write about the Paradoxical Commandments again, three decades after I first published them.
I have often been asked, if you were to write the Paradoxical Commandments today, would you add any to the list? For years, I have resisted this idea. The commandments are guidelines for finding personal meaning in the face of adversity. The specific commandments aren’t meant to cover all the situations that we face in life. They are examples of the attitude we need when we face those situations. We need to love people and help people and do what is right and good and true, no matter what the world does to us. We need to do it anyway. That’s how we will find meaning and deep happiness—the kind of happiness that touches the spirit and connects with the soul.
I discussed the last three verses of Habakkuk with my wife, Elizabeth, who immediately understood the connection with the Paradoxical Commandments. She gave me a big smile and said, “You’ve found a new Paradoxical Commandment.” I knew she was right. Here it is:
 
THE WORLD IS FULL OF VIOLENCE, INJUSTICE,
STARVATION, DISEASE, AND ENVIRONMENTAL
DESTRUCTION. HAVE FAITH ANYWAY.
 
 
This book is about what we can learn from Habakkuk about how to have faith even when our world seems headed for disaster. It is about trying to understand how God is using the present situation—one that is bewildering and discouraging—to bring about his kingdom. It is about praying and discerning and acting in ways that will fulfill God’s purposes.
In the pages ahead, we will read together the entire text of the Old Testament book of Habakkuk, seeking to understand and apply his vision and his faith. We will review the historical situation in his day and discuss his anguish, which is so similar to the anguish we experience in our own time. We will look at what it means to live in God’s time, not our own. We will review the five “woes” that describe how leaders and nations should not behave. We will discuss the meaning of faith, what it is like to live a life of faith, and how to build a faith as unshakable as the faith of Habakkuk. We will conclude by asking, if a Christian were to have a vision today like the vision Habakkuk had 2,600 years ago, what would it be like?
After studying and praying on the book of Habakkuk, I was blessed to have my own vision. It consisted of words—separate blocks of dialogue between a Christian and God that I arranged into a single conversation. That vision is recorded in Chapter Nine. Receiving that vision was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. I encourage you to do what I did—to study and pray on the book of Habakkuk and be open to receiving your own vision.
We know that our world has truly become a fearful place. But if we have faith, we can stay connected with God and live the way Jesus taught us to live. We can love each other, help each other, and respect each other as the children of God. We can come together and build a new world. It will not be easy, but as we move forward, we can be inspired by the example of Habakkuk. He showed us that whatever happens, we can rejoice in the Lord and have faith anyway.

THE PARADOXICAL COMMANDMENTS
1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
3. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
 
And now:
11. The world is full of violence, injustice, starvation, disease, and environmental destruction.
Have faith anyway.

CHAPTER 1
The Prophet Who Confronted God
Often when people of faith look at all the violence, injustice, starvation, disease, and environmental destruction in the world, they ask themselves, where is God? How can God allow this?
These important questions have been asked for literally thousands of years. They were asked with special eloquence by a Hebrew prophet named Habakkuk 2,600 years ago. Habakkuk had a vision in which he asked God these questions, and he got some answers. They were not the answers he wanted. But he responded with an affirmation of faith that stands out as one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible.

THE PROPHET HABAKKUK

We know very little about Habakkuk other than the words of the Old Testament book that he wrote. We do not know his tribe or hometown. The word Habakkuk may mean “embrace,” as in a hug or enfolding that can keep you warm when there is no other shelter or source of warmth. Or it may have been an Akkadian or Babylonian name for a kind of garden plant or fruit tree. We don’t know.1 However, based on his writings, scholars estimate that Habakkuk lived at the end of the seventh century B.C., the same time period as the prophets Nahum, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah.2
The book of Habakkuk begins with the words “The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received” (Hab. 1:1).3 When a prophet received an oracle, it was his responsibility to communicate it to God’s people. In Habakkuk’s case, the task was especially difficult, since the message was that the kingdom of Judah would be destroyed by the Babylonians.