Can I Be Okay With God’s Ways When They Don’t Make Sense? With Taylor Turkington [Episode 271]

Okay God's Ways Don't Make Sense Taylor Turkington

GIVEAWAY ALERT: You can win the book Trembling Faith by this week’s podcast guest. Keep reading to find out how!

Sometimes we can become overwhelmed with all of the brokenness in our world, right? Chaos, injustice, and corruption surround us, powerful people take advantage of the weak, and societies overlook or mistreat those who desperately need help.

As people who trust in an all-powerful God, we might ask, “God, aren’t you going to help?” or “God, why are you allowing this to happen?”

Well, when we lift these pleas to Heaven, we’re not alone. Our words closely resemble those of the distressed prophet Habakkuk.

So… do you know what that means?!

It means today we’re geeking out about this minor prophet in the Old Testament, and author Taylor Turkington is leading the way.

As we talk about Taylor’s book, Trembling Faith: How a Distressed Prophet Helps Us Trust God in a Chaotic World, you’ll see how surprisingly relevant Habakkuk’s story is to us today. He wrestled to live by faith in a fallen world, and sadly, that’s our struggle too.

But here’s the good news…

It’s possible to be okay with God’s ways even when they don’t make sense to us. Taylor teaches us to pay attention instead of looking away, lament instead of numbing out, and ask with expectation instead of avoiding God altogether.

And as we learn from Habakkuk, that’s the key to turning our pleas into praise.

This conversation is so encouraging, so practical, and so full of hope. So, let’s get to it!

Meet Taylor

Taylor Turkington is the former director of training ministries for The Gospel Coalition and Western Seminary, and today serves on the board of an evangelical seminary. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her family where she enjoys growing tall flowers, drinking great tea, and paddling the rivers.

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Episode Transcript

4:13 Podcast: Can I Be Okay With God's Ways When They Don't Make Sense? Taylor Turkington [Episode 271]

Taylor Turkington: Often when things felt so broken and when I had news that was bad and hard times that didn't make sense, when ministry didn't go as I planned, when my health was in a precarious place and I was in the hospital, or even when I was in high school and I was struggling with how does this world work together when things seem unjust.

Jennifer Rothschild: Sometimes this world can feel chaotic and confusing, can't it? Powerful people take advantage of the weak, and society can overlook or mistreat those who most need help. As people who trust a powerful God, we can ask, "God, please help," or "God, what are you doing?" or, "God, why do you let those people act that way?" Well, when we ask those questions, we sound a lot like the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk. Yep, today we are going to geek out again with another minor prophet, and you will love how practical, accessible, and encouraging author Taylor Turkington makes this message. So settle in and get ready for some great Biblical wisdom and practical encouragement on The 4:13 today. Here we go.

K.C. Wright: Welcome to the 4:13 Podcast -- we're so glad you're here -- where practical encouragement and Biblical wisdom set you up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

Now, welcome your host, Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: Hey, people, we're glad you're here today. I'm Jennifer. And my goal is to help you be and do more than you feel capable of as you're living the "I Can" life of Philippians 4:13. I got to be honest, it's a little easier to live the "I Can" life for me in November, because it is nice and cool outside. I do not behave well when I get overheated, I'm just going to say. So I like it when the weather cools off. Do you, K.C.? You like the cool weather?

K.C. Wright: I'm your summer guy.

Jennifer Rothschild: I know you are. But I had to ask anyway.

K.C. Wright: But I'm just, like, sitting here thinking where has this year gone?

Jennifer Rothschild: I know, right?

K.C. Wright: For real.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

K.C. Wright: It's like we blinked. It's going by at warp speed.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, I agree. I bet y'all feel this way too. I think the older we get, the faster it seems to go.

K.C. Wright: Weird.

Jennifer Rothschild: Maybe we just live more fully or appreciate it with more depth, I don't know, but it does seem to go fast.

But speaking of this year, we're going to talk today -- I told you about another minor prophet. And if you guys are constant 4:13 family friends who hang out with us, you know we have done several episodes on minor prophets, because I have a major crush on the minor prophets. And I hope you've already noticed by now that when we talk minor prophets, y'all, it is some of the most interesting, life-giving conversations, right? I think we had some podcasts on the Book of Amos, because I wrote a Bible study on the Book of Amos, so we've talked about that a couple of times. I have talked to you a couple of times about courage in the Book of Haggai, who Haggai was a minor prophet. Lisa Whittle was with us and she talked about the Book of Nahum. I mean, this has been some good stuff, people. And then, of course, I wrote a Bible study, another one, on the Book of Hosea. We're going to have all that on the Show Notes for those of you who get all excited about the minor prophets. But today is no exception.

Okay, but I have to tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me when it came to the Book of Habakkuk.

K.C. Wright: Oh, no.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes. Okay. So I think most of you know, but if you don't, I have the privilege of traveling and teaching women's conferences. Okay. So this was back many years ago, and it was right during menopause. I was, like, in the thick of menopause -- some of you know this season of my story -- but I didn't know it was happening at the time. But it was menopause combined with blindness, and all my hormones got so messed up and I was just really depressed. You know how last week you talked about your brain was foggy?

K.C. Wright: Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: Like, that's how I was all the time. And I was doing my best, I just didn't know what it was. Okay. So that meant that I was constantly having to reorient myself and forget. And if you don't know, I'm blind. So when I'm on stage, I'm constantly paying attention to how many steps I've walked, where I'm looking, while at the same time I've got my Scripture memorized, I have the message, the whole thing. My brain is firing on all cylinders.

Well, this night it was not firing. And so I was teaching out of the Book of Habakkuk and I already had been getting words wrong. And so at one point in the message, I had said something about one -- I was talking about something in the Book of Numbers, and so I told the audience to turn back to the Book of November. And I'm like, "Okay, I know that's not what it's called. What's it called?" "Numbers?" "Yes, that one. Right. November, the Book of November, it's right before December." Anyway, so that was just one example. But things were not going well.

So I get to the very end of this beautiful message -- and Taylor's going to talk about this in a little bit. There's this beautiful hymn of praise in Habakkuk 3, you know, where Habakkuk talks about when the olive crop may fail --

K.C. Wright: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- you know, there's no livestock --

K.C. Wright: Grain in the stall.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, all that stuff.

K.C. Wright: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right. So I just was really sharing the Scripture. And then I get to this point, and with drama and emotion I said to that audience, who is hanging on every word, "So if the olive crap fails." Yeah, but I didn't laugh. I thought I was going to burst into tears. I'm like, "Oh, crap. I mean -- no, it's not crap." The audience, like, they paused like, should we laugh or not? Finally they burst out laughing. It was --

K.C. Wright: Oh, they busted.

Jennifer Rothschild: It was terrible.

K.C. Wright: They busted.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. So me and Habakkuk, we just were like -- I was like, can I just get out of this book, please. Anyway, but we are going to -- it is one of my favorite books of the Bible, and I love this conversation with Taylor. So, K.C., let's get to this conversation.

K.C. Wright: Jennifer, I love it that you love the Word so much, and these prophets. And also I love it that you have real-life bloopers.

Jennifer Rothschild: Big time.

K.C. Wright: But we all love it so much. It's amazing.

All right. Taylor Turkington is the former director of Training Ministries for the Gospel Coalition and Western Seminary, and today serves on the Board of the Evangelical Seminary. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her family, where she enjoys growing tall flowers, drinking great tea, and paddling the rivers. She's the author of "Trembling Faith," which is the book she and Jennifer are talking about today. So get ready to geek out, ladies. Here we go.

Jennifer Rothschild: Good stuff.

All right, Taylor, I am a major minor prophet girl, which sounds kind of funny. But our listeners know that I get really excited when we get to talk about any minor prophets. So this one is really exciting to me. So your book, it's called "Trembling Faith," and it's based on the Old Testament Book of Habakkuk. So I want to know, why did you choose Habakkuk?

Taylor Turkington: Oh, well, first, Jennifer, I love that you're a minor prophets girl. I am as well. They are sometimes the books that still have a little bit of the gold on the edges of our Bibles, but they have so much good stuff for us.

Honestly, the Book of Habakkuk has met me and comforted me time and time again. If I drew you a labeling -- like, a timeline of my life, there would be multiple dots on it that labeled when Taylor ended up in the Book of Habakkuk, often when things felt so broken and when I had news that was bad and hard times that didn't make sense, when ministry didn't go as I planned, when my health was in a precarious place and I was in the hospital, or even when I was in high school and I was struggling with how does this world work together when things seem unjust?

Jennifer Rothschild: That just describes where most of us live at one point or another.

Taylor Turkington: Yeah. And I think that this book just shows us how a prophet can speak to God when angry and hurting, and God welcomes him and shows him how to live. It's as if we can speak to God, instead of just about him, and face the world without sticking our heads in the sand or just exploding.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's so good. See, this is why I love the practical nature of those prophets. And so I'm so excited about the way you have framed this. Because for our listeners, Habakkuk, it's only three chapters. And what you've done is you split your book "Trembling Faith" into three sections. So I want to know what those sections are, and explain why you decided to write it that way.

Taylor Turkington: Oh, that's a great question. And really, I broke it into three sections because I think there's three sections in the book. There's this first section that's a conversation with God, where we kind of get to sit in on Habakkuk's prayer time, and I've called it "Lament and Hope." It's where Habakkuk says, "God, what are you doing? Why aren't you helping with the injustice?" And God says he's actually doing something. He's working, even though Habakkuk doesn't see it, but he's bringing consequences to the sin of Judah. And it's not that God is going to answer Habakkuk's prayer exactly how he wants it; instead, things are going to get worse before they get better, but God is still working. And Habakkuk even responds with more lament and protest, but still trusts in God's character, and God gives him a vision of faith, of way to live. He says the righteous will live by faith, and that grounds the entire book.

The second section is this song in the second half of Chapter 2, Chapter 2:6-20. And it's a bit dark when you first read it. It's probably not a song we're going to sing in church. It's a woe song. But it's God reminding his people that he will bring justice. That when people misuse their power to steal or harm, or raise themselves up over just to make themselves comfortable at the expense of others, valuing their own lifestyle over people, that those people will have to face him. And I called this section "Injustice and Justice." We talk about the call here also for us to live justly because we follow a just God. And it also speaks here of the glory of God spreading across the earth and hints towards what he's going to do through Christ. And it's often an overlooked section.

The third section I call "Waiting In Joy," and it's the third chapter of Habakkuk. And sometimes we wait in this world, just like Habakkuk did. And it's this song Habakkuk writes to sing with the community, with God's faithful people. It's a song about a powerful God who rescues, even when things get harder before they get better. It reminds us that this world can be unstable, but our God saves and he is never lost, even if other things are, and he makes us strong to stand.

Jennifer Rothschild: Wow, Taylor, what I'm about to ask you, I feel like has been answered because -- here's the thing. Habakkuk was written thousands of years ago based on a historical time and how God was present in Habakkuk's life, in Judah's life through history at that time. Okay? But still it resonates. We hear the echoes even in our culture when you mention words like "injustice" and "waiting." Right? So how does it specifically, then, speak into our challenges, like in America today and in our world today, and those struggles that we're facing?

Taylor Turkington: Yeah. You know, Jennifer, I think that we can just even open our phones or computers and read the news and feel like this world is broken. And we are not crazy to think that. It is broken. And we feel that we see injustice and corruption and suffering, and we look at God and we say, God, you are just and good. There's a discrepancy here. So we see that, and that's exactly when we are supposed to lament.

But I think today we have forgotten how to do that. We've forgotten how to take all of our emotions to God sometimes. Instead, we feel like we have to talk about him to other people instead of going to him. What Habakkuk does is it really gives us a model, a path of how we can speak to God with all of the feelings of injustice and grief and sadness that we see, because we do live in a broken world and we can hear from God. And I think the word that God had for Habakkuk is the same word he has for us. When he tells Habakkuk to live by faith, that that's the way through Habakkuk. Because his character doesn't change even when we don't understand what God is doing, even when justice doesn't come today, and it may come later. Because that song of justice wasn't going to come in Habakkuk's lifetime, it was going to come later. And even when we are waiting and we don't get the answers to the prayers that we wanted, instead we can sing with Habakkuk that God is powerful and that one day that he is going to work and what we gain from him is better than anything we can lose.

And really this idea of the righteous living by faith isn't just an Old Testament, a long time ago concept, right? Like, this is what Paul quoted in Romans Chapter 1 when he was summarizing the Gospel for us. He said, "And remember the righteous live by faith." That's Chapter 1:17. And the writer of Hebrews also quotes it right before he launches into the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11, the very end of Chapter 10. He tells them -- in the midst of persecution and suffering, he tells them to wait. And the writer of Hebrews is implying wait for the return of Christ. Wait for it. And now the righteous live by faith. This is the way through for us.

Jennifer Rothschild: Wow. And, you know, I think sometimes, Taylor, we get tripped up with all this. Like you said, when we look at our phone or turn on the news and there's so much injustice and we wonder what is God doing or what's the point of what's seemingly inactivity? And I think sometimes we think, okay, I would feel satisfaction if God solved the problem or I would feel satisfaction if God explained this to me. But that's not what Habakkuk said. He said the righteous don't live by answers or explanations, they live by faith. That's a hard place to be. So for you personally, was that a hard place to land and to live?

Taylor Turkington: Yeah, yeah. And I think that this is especially true when we have been mistreated. Which is a lot of what's being talked about in Habakkuk, really a mistreatment of people who are in power, using their power maybe just for self-protection or for their own gain. And even as the Babylonians are going to come and bring discipline on God's people as they go into exile, Habakkuk's like, Those people aren't any good. They're terrible. They're terrible. How could you do this, God? Still, Habakkuk is quoting Moses there when he leans into the character of God and calls him "my Rock," "my Holy One." And I think in many ways what we're doing is -- we don't get the answers either. You know, neither did most of the people in the Scriptures when they call out to God with lament. Yet we can lean into what we do know about God. Just as Habakkuk quotes Deuteronomy, and then later he quotes the psalms of David, he's leaning into what he already knows is true about how God interacts with his people. And we do that too.

And in my own life, I've seen leaders misuse their power and -- kind of in a broader stage watching online, but also more closer to home, watch people that I trusted do things behind the scenes that come out and there's scandal, or people just acting like a bully at times and making other people feel hopeless and desperate, and us having to be like, God, what are you doing here? And us being able to have to lean into what we know is true of God, even when people in power are doing things that are wrong. And it makes us recognize that God's character doesn't change.

There's a story that I share in the book about learning to scuba dive. And when you're deep down and you get confused and you don't know which way is up, you blow out air from your tank and you watch where the bubbles go. And the bubbles always go up. Always. That's the way to the surface, that's the way up. And so in the same way, we have to remember what's true about God. And it helps us remember -- reorient when we get turned upside down by injustice. Because we know what's true about God: his character never changes.

Jennifer Rothschild: What a good -- that's such a good word. Because what you're contrasting is basically living by feelings rather than going with what you know is true about God. So how you feel is real, and we lament, but we go with the truth about what we know. Super good, Taylor.

Okay. So another thing in your book, you write that Habakkuk models how to speak to God when life is agonizing. So tell us what we can learn from Habakkuk when it comes to prayer.

Taylor Turkington: Yeah, that's great. And when we pray, especially when things are really hard, we often end up wrestling with him, right? And sometimes we -- or even we just get quiet, we don't speak to him. We feel like there's just no ability to have the right words. But I feel like Habakkuk gives us three really wise principles to do when life is foggy, because sometimes grief does put us into a fog.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

Taylor Turkington: The first one is to lament honestly. We tell God how we truly feel about what's going on. We come to him with anger, we come to him with sadness. We come to him with all that we have, and he can take it. There's no hint in the Book of Habakkuk that God is upset that Habakkuk is honest with him. Neither do we see that with David or others who lament, but that we can -- God can take it and he wants to hear us. Just like a trusted relationship. Like our kids might come to us with full passion of how they feel about what's going on. It's because they believe that we loved them before and we're going to love them again.

The second one is to ask for help with who God is. And this can be as simple as, "Have mercy, my Savior," or, "Help, Father." It's because -- we see Habakkuk doing this. He talks exactly about who God is. Even as he's calling out and protesting that he doesn't like what's happening, he's calling God his Rock. He's saying he's his Holy One who's going to be for forever. And it's also okay for our brains to be overwhelmed and to ask for help and just include these little tiny pieces that remind us of God's commitment to us and who we are to him in the midst of that.

And the third thing is to pray for God to work in you. And when I've been -- things are really hard, I'm not often praying, "Let steadfastness have its full effect that I may be perfect and complete," quoting James 1, like, all eloquently. It's more like, "God help my heart" -- right? -- is more likely. But it's these things that can steady us as we ask God to strengthen us. We ask him to remind us of how valuable he is. And I think in some ways that's why we have this song at the end of Habakkuk 3. But Habakkuk didn't give the people another sermon. He gave them a song to sing. Because sometimes we need words in our mouths to sing to change our hearts to know how to communicate to God. And this isn't cliché prayer or naïve faith, but real gritty, sometimes trembling faith. And that's what I think we see about prayer in the Book of Habakkuk.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's so good. And I appreciate those three principles. I really love too, Habakkuk didn't give them another sermon, he offered a song. And may that penetrate our hearts. Taylor, your insights are deep and beautiful and accessible, and I appreciate all those three qualities. We're going to hit our last question, though.

So in your book, the other thing I realized is you emphasize the importance of perseverance. Like, Habakkuk didn't quit. All right? So the importance of perseverance and trusting in God's plans, even when you don't like them or they don't make sense, et cetera. So give us some very practical ways that we can do that, that we can persevere and trust in God's plan when things are just upside down.

Taylor Turkington: Yeah. I think one of the big things that we can do is that we can decide to pray, even if it's just for a couple minutes. That when things are upside down, we open our mouth to God or we write it down. Or sometimes we need a friend to do it with us, we ask our friend to do it with us. We pray.

The second thing we do is we remember what we know about God, and that means returning to the Scriptures. And this sounds cliché, like, oh, Taylor, she's on her Biblical literacy kick again. And it's not about us just -- make sure you know your Bible, but because it actually grounds us. And we see that in the Scriptures. Habakkuk -- when life is falling apart and things are hitting the fan, he is quoting the Bible that he knows. Like, that is what's holding him fast.

If we look at the history, Habakkuk likely grew up under King Josiah, right? He was that young good king who rebuilt the temple, and he found the Book of the Law in the temple and read it to everyone. That was the Book of Deuteronomy. And so we see Habakkuk in this book quoting the Book of Deuteronomy over and over again. You can just imagine. This was like the Scriptures that he'd heard in his youth over and over again from King Josiah, and so this is what he quotes. When things are really hard, he remembers what he knows about God from the Bible. And then at the end, he quotes David. The very last verse of the entire thing says, "The Lord, my Lord, is my strength. He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights." He's quoting a psalm of David, but he's taking what God did for David and applying it to himself.

And this is the third thing, is that sometimes we have a hard time believing that God is working for us. We need to borrow almost the faith of other people. We need to say, God, I know you have worked in the life of Joe, my friend, so I'm going to trust that you can work in my life too. Or my friend Joe believes that you can do this and I need to believe it too. Because we live in community, and the song at the end was designed to be sung in community. And what Habakkuk is doing is looking back and saying, God, you were the God who made David strong so that he could fight when he needed to. And Habakkuk wasn't going to fight. But he's taking those principles and saying, God, you're going to make me strong just as you made David strong. And because he is the same faithful God who works with his people over and over again, he is the God who saves his people.

This final one also reminds us that God is the one who works in the same patterns over and over again, which is what the song reminds us of. That he is the God who saved his people out of the exodus, who saved us through his strong arm and the power of Jesus, and one day he's going to bring us all the way into the new creation. And so we remember that he is the same God that keeps working even when the world feels really dark today.

K.C. Wright: Did you hear her? God is the one who works in the same patterns over and over and over again. And if he did it then, won't he do it again?

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

K.C. Wright: Yeah, he will do this good work in you that he began. So decide to pray, remember what you know about God in Scripture.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. And her last thing was to borrow the faith of others if you feel like you can't conjure it up for yourself. I thought that was brilliant. Another reminder of how much we need each other.

So, our friends, get her book and read, actually, the Book of Habakkuk, which is in the Old Testament. It's only three chapters. In fact, it will take you ten minutes and one second to listen to it on the Dwell Bible app. I've told you before I love the Dwell Bible app. So you can get a free trial of the Dwell Bible app by going to

K.C. Wright: And we are giving one of Taylor's books away right now. You will really love it. So go to Jennifer's Instagram profile to get registered to win. It's simply jennifer@jennrothschild. So Jennifer's found on Instagram @jennrothschild. Or you can simply go to the Show Notes now at to get to her Instagram and read the entire transcript of this great conversation. Today was so full of Biblical wisdom, you need to review it. I know I do. Let's go there together.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. I think it can always be a good reminder. Because we listen to it with our ears, but then maybe you can see it with your eyes, and it's such a good review.

All right, our friends, I hope that you are developing a crush on these minor prophets along with me. In fact, if you are and you've not left us a review, why don't you mention that in the review. I would love to hear it. So leave us a review, because that also helps people know the quality content we got going on here at The 4:13.

All right. Until next week, trust God. You can, because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. I can.

K.C. Wright: I can.

Jennifer Rothschild: And you can.

K.C. Wright: You can.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, you can.

K.C. Wright: You can.


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