In July 1889, the International Congress was held in Paris with representatives of workers from various European countries. The congress established that labor groups would hold public demonstrations annually on May 1 to demand improvements in their living conditions.
Reflecting on my childhood in Cuba, I remember the observance of International Workers’ Day. That day, everyone would march together towards “La Plaza de la Revolución,” Cuba’s sovereignty memorial. The streets were full of workers and their families. I remember on one occasion singing with my friend Rosita as we both sat on our fathers’ shoulders and played with our paper flags.
The change brought by the Cuban revolution in 1959 made some leave and others stay. Many believed there was going to be an invasion of Cuba and that Castro would go away. Unfortunately for Cubans, that did not happen. Years of economic struggle, family separation, suppression, hunger, authoritarian power and devastation of a once beautiful island followed.
On May 1, people across Cuba took to the streets. This time, the sentiment behind the march was different from the one I remember from my childhood. It was a cry from the people about their frustrations over food and medicine shortages and record COVID-19 infections while the government blamed U.S. sanctions for stoking the unrest.
In the Bible, God told the prophet Habakkuk to minister to the nation of God and deliver a prophetic message amid Israel’s predicament. The king of Israel, Jehoiakim, was oppressing his kingdom, and the pagan nations around him prospered and were strengthened. Habakkuk began his account with a cry: How long must I cry, Jehovah, without you listening to me?
“How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.” Habakkuk 1:2,3 (NIV)
Habakkuk’s cry has resonated with believers throughout history. The plea was for justice, for peace, for the healing of his people. His cry was not one of material requests but rather of social and human well-being. It was a sincere prayer for his people. While the people suffered, God seemed to keep silent.
The reason Habakkuk cried out to God was because he knew God’s character. God is compassionate, just, abundant in love and, above all things, a faithful God. But why now the silence? Habakkuk’s cry is the same cry the Cuban people have had for 62 years: How long, Lord?
In the middle of Habakkuk’s story, God breaks the silence and answers him. “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright — but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.” Habakkuk 2:4 (NIV)
When in the eye of the storm, during crises or when we do not receive the response we need, we feel that God is absent and does not listen to us. That is why God’s response to Habakkuk is important; it is because no matter what we feel, we must know that God hears us. We must be aware of His presence. God is not indifferent to the cry of His children.
After Habakkuk’s cry, God still didn’t answer his prayer. However, Habakkuk took a posture of adoration and ended his book saying:
“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 tread on the heights.” Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NIV)
Believe in God’s promises, have faith in His processes and trust in His power. Praise the Lord in the eye of the storm, for He loves you. He is aware and cares about your plight, and most importantly, He is in control.