Turning “How Longs?” Into Hallelujahs
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,Having sorrow in my heart day after day?How long will my enemy exalt himself and triumph over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;Give light (life) to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. But I have trusted and relied on and been confident in Your lovingkindness and faithfulness;My heart shall rejoice and delight in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord,Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
Psalm 13: 1-6
A relatively new Christian experienced a string of difficulties sufficient to almost swamp her faith. A mature sister in the Lord counseled her with the promise: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear” 1 Corinthians 10:13.
“See,” the friend said encouragingly, “the Lord knows your limits. All these difficult things would not be happening to you if He thought you could not handle them. The fact you have so much adversity just shows how much confidence He really has in you.”
In frustration, faith, and a touch of humor, the stressed out believer responded, “Well, I just wish the Lord did not have such a high opinion of me.”
Psalm 13 pours out of David’s heart when he faced more than he thought he could handle. Sometimes in such a circumstance, David asked, “Why?”(Psalm 10:1). Here he asks, “How long?”(Psalm 13:1).
To think that our closest friend has forgotten us would hurt, yet that’s the pain we sometimes feel when our situation convinces us that God has forgotten us. We think that if He was really noticing us and we were truly on His heart and mind, He would have already intervened.
That’s what Mary and Martha felt and expressed when Jesus finally made His appearance when their brother had become ill and died. “Lord, if you just had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” They didn’t say it in so many words, but they implied that it was too little, too late. We don’t always understand God’s delays and in the waiting room, we hear the whisper of the devil and our own doubt saying that God has forgotten and forsaken us. But the cry of Jesus on the cross, “My God, why have You forsaken me?” says that He was forsaken for us so that we might know that He will never forsake us.
George Wood says, “Feelings do not always tell us the truth about God. Jesus reminds us that our Father cannot even forget a sparrow- and we are worth far more than that.”
Psalm 13 expresses David’s sense of losing the nearness of the Lord. The feeling of being disengaged and disconnected from God has led him to believe that God doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. David uses the phrase, “How long will You hide your face from me” to say that while forgetfulness may be attributed to negligence, hiding one’s face is a deliberate act.
We, too, may at times feel that God doesn’t want to have anything to do with us especially if we have failed in some way. Our answer to those feelings must be answered by faith for Romans 8:35-36 says that “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God.”
George Wood tells us, “David ‘wrestles with his thoughts.’ Like us he runs the course- “If I had only….what might have been if…..? Sorrow lies heavy on his heart. Grief only occurs when there is loss of something or someone precious. This loss may be a person, an expectation, a thing. The more value we attach to what is lost, the greater our depression.”
David tells us that his enemies triumph over him, in the same way our adversaries often seem more powerful than our capability to resolve them. Those feelings of weakness and loss of control join together to produce apprehension and fear. We may wonder whether the rest of our lives will continue to be this way. It’s easy to forget that “we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Romans 8:37
In Psalm 13 we find that David never gets a direct response from God. He never gets a deadline by which God will act. David learned and hopefully we can that resolution comes to our dilemma when we still our hearts before God in prayer.
Though David states what he wants God to do- answer, illuminate, and protect- he ultimately leaves the issue with God. “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”
George Wood says, “As you pray, the Holy Spirit helps you experience another side to your struggle. It’s not all pain, trauma, or weeping. After a few moments on your knees your perspective begins to change. God’s love doesn’t fail after all. In your anxious moments keep trusting. You too will find reason to sing, for you know far more of the Lord than David. You will see that God has not abandoned you nor will your problems win the battle over you. Let your ‘how longs? be swallowed up in hallelujahs.”
Standing with Mary and Martha next to the tomb, Jesus didn’t chide them for their questions, doubts, and fears. Instead He responded by reminding them who He was.
“I am the resurrection and life,” He told them and turning from them He spoke to Lazarus and raised Him from the dead. It’s ok to admit your fears and doubts but don’t leave it there. Wait and listen and you will hear God speak to your circumstances. The One who has control over death and the grave isn’t intimidated or overwhelmed by your situation. Turn to Him with all your heart, cast your burden on Him and trust the in due season He will address your need. Meanwhile, rest in His love and care for you.
Dr. John Thompson