How long, O Lord, will we and billions of our neighbors around the world be sheltering in place? How long will the “curve” of the coronavirus continue to rise? How long will medical professionals, cashiers, food suppliers and so many others be fighting this daily battle? How long will we be putting off important occasions – weddings and funerals and all other get togethers? How long will parks and playgrounds and sports be off limits? How long will we be nervous about a simple outing to the supermarket or pharmacy or hardware store?
Do any of these cries of “How long?” echo your concerns and prayers this week?
“How long?” questions are nothing new. People have been asking themselves, one another, and God Himself, “How long?” for millennia. Around 3,000 years ago, the plaintive words of Psalm 13 were penned by Israel’s King David:
1 “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.”
David was having more than a bad day. He was experiencing some sort of intense suffering, at the hands of deadly enemies. He feels as if God has forgotten Him, as if God has hidden Himself. David worried that, unless the Lord would intervene, he might end up dead. David was shaken, but he continued to trust the Lord as his Rock and Salvation.
Four times in this brief Psalm, David asked, “How long?” He pleaded with the Lord, “consider and answer me” as he poured out his soul to God. But David has more to say. Out of the depths of his anguish and worry, David trusts and rejoices and sings!
David would have to wait for God’s response to all his questions. In the meantime, David didn’t give up. The Lord’s steadfast love, His certain salvation, and His gracious bounty anchored David in his emotional storm.
What can we learn from Psalms of Lament, such as Psalm 13? It’s okay to give the Lord a piece of your mind! He can handle it. He’s heard it all. Just read the other 149 Psalms! It’s far better for our souls to lament to the Lord – to turn to Him in trouble – than to turn away from Him.
But the Lord has also given us a piece of His mind – much more than that, really. He has given us His written Word, and He has given us His Living Word, His Son Jesus.
God doesn’t promise to answer all our “How long?” questions on our timing. However, through His Word He does promise us so much more than we deserve. He promises His presence. He promises His protection. He promises us the gift His Holy Spirit. He promises His peace. He promises His provision. He promises His healing, both the temporary healing we experience here and the eternal healing that is ours in Christ.
If “How long???” expresses how you’re feeling this week, then tell God about it! But don’t stop there. Listen to Him as well. Read and ponder His promises in Scripture. Share a Gospel Word with your loved ones and social media contacts. Take a page out of David’s book – trust the Lord, rejoice in Him, and sing & speak to Him of both your sorrows and your joys.
“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5-6)