How Long O’ Lord?
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 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? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. 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.
How long, o’ Lord? What a heavy question that man utters from his lips. It’s the question asked when the days are long, the trials unceasing, the aching body groans, and the oasis of rest is far off. It's the plea of a tired individual whose heart is heavy, their pace slowing, and their eyes red from tears and lack of sleep. These long segments of the race in which we are seemingly in the wilderness without food, water, or rest, and the darkness dwells in the periphery dot the landscape of our lives.
Each of us will face these trying times, and this is a guarantee that comes with the fallen human condition. These thorns in the garden of life that we must toil in are all consequences of sin. Although many of us find deliverance from the ultimate reality of sin (death), we still live in a world choking and suffocating on man's curse. Indeed, we relate to Solomon as he laments that all is vanity and striving against the wind. As we face these uncertain days, let us look to David's psalm to see how he lamented.
David's lament begins with a series of questions directed toward the throne of God. He asks how long he must wait until God turns His eyes upon His servant again; how long until God's grace, mercy, and wisdom shines upon David's soul. The brightness of God appears to be hidden behind the clouds darkening the landscape. The storm clouds thicken in the sky, and the Earth grumbles, so we hear that familiar question, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
The truth is that God never forsakes His own. Even when the sky blackens, and the enemies of God gather, God is never far. A very present help in trouble, God is our refuge and strength. He dwells not only in the high and holy places but also with those who are contrite and low in spirit. He is there to hear the prayers of the righteous. Look to what Peter says in 1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The answer to the question of "how long?" is found within verse 6 – a little while. For us, it may be days, weeks, months, years, or a lifetime, but when keeping eternity in our view, our struggles are for a little while before the we reach the appointed time, and our faith becomes sight.
Consider and Answer Me
Amid the struggle, God's silence is the last sound we desire. We expect God to split the Red Sea, rain fire from heaven, send angels to conquer on our behalf, and for the hardships to be immediately dealt with by whatever means necessary. Even in this lament, David begs for God to respond, or else he may die, and his enemies prevail in his demise. It's such a dramatic statement revealing how precarious David felt his life was. These trials were life and death to David. Like the disciples in the boat fighting against the storm as Christ slept, David basically asks God, “Do you not care that I am perishing?”
Looking towards the disciples and the storm, let us remember Christ’s response, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" We do well to keep this in the forefront of our minds as the storms batter, the enemies surround, and the nations rage. Where is our faith? Cling to Christ and let Him hold you steadfast in the God’s palm. We strive forward, running the race set before us with endurance only available through Christ. We hold to the same promise made to Joshua in Joshua 1:5, "No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” We can also look to Paul’s writing to the Corinthians, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” Even in the darkest moments of our trials, God does not forsake His own.
But I have Trusted…
As the lament concludes, David turns his eyes heavenward to praise God. Despite David's desperation and uncertainty and the perceived silence of God, David declares his trust in God's love, in the salvation granted to him, and praises God for the blessings given in the past. Those memories of God's goodness are water droplets on a parched tongue. They remind David that God's salvation is more than enough regardless of whether God responds or delivers him. David rightly recognizes that he deserves nothing, and that God's grace gifted all he has. This proclamation of worship saves this psalm from being a sinful complaint levied against God, challenging His authority and goodness. David resolves to worship God regardless of the circumstances, and we must emulate this within our own walks. Yes, times are tough, our families are struggling, the church is flailing, the sick are ailing, and sin abounds, but I have trusted God's steadfast love. Draw inspiration from Paul in his final writings, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.’
I write all this to remind you, dear reader, that although the days are dark, the times perilous, and the struggles unceasing, God is near, and his goodness and grace abounds. The thorns may prick our flesh, but Christ is by our side. We may suffer in a myriad of ways, and we may be required to pour ourselves out as a drink offering to God, but standing steadfastly on the promises of God who is our refuge and keeping the faith given to us, we strive forward, persevering and enduring this race set before us until we reach the appointed finish line. As our souls groan, asking, "How long, o Lord?" Remind yourself that these trials are only for a little while.
My final encouragement is Hebrews 12:1 – 2
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.