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How Long?

How Long?

Psalm 6:3

My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long?

Psalm 13:1-2

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?

Psalm 35:17

How long, O Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions!

Psalm 74:9-10

We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, and there is none among us who knows how long. How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever?

Psalm 79:5

How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealousy burn like fire?

Psalm 80:4

O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?

Psalm 82:2

How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah

Psalm 89:46

How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire?

Psalm 90:13

Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!

Psalm 94:3

O Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult?

Psalm 119:84

How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those who persecute me?

Over the past week and a half, there has been a lot of discussion in the news and in society at large about when some or all of the restrictions on our movement and activity will be lifted.  Perhaps you’re wondering the same thing.  While it is clear that aggressive social distancing has helped to save lives, it has not come without a cost.  Millions of people have lost jobs, and thousands have lost businesses, regular contact with loved ones, and most crucially, hope.  In this case, both the disease and the efforts to slow it down have been hard.  It is not my intention to debate which is worse; as Christians, we can compassionately acknowledge that both are difficult on us and on our neighbors.  All of this has left many asking the question, “how much longer will it be like this?”

Thankfully, this question is not an unfamiliar one to our Lord.  He knows that it is hard for us to endure difficult trials for long.  He even included several examples in His Word of people praying to Him to ask Him “how long,” just as we have been asking.  How compassionate of our God to give us prayers such as the ones we find in the Psalms to pray to Him in times like these!  Does He not understand our souls well enough to provide what we need, not just for living, but for dealing with life?

As we have been reading in Hebrews, God doesn’t just understand intellectually that we struggle to cope with long trials; He knows this experientially.  Jesus Himself prayed and sang these Psalms, and not without reason.  He is one who experienced sorrow in His heart, whose enemies scoffed at Him, who experienced the lack of an answer to His questions.  Our omniscient God understands intimately the helpless feeling of not knowing.

That’s why He can show us mercy and give us grace to help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).  Not coincidentally, that’s also where the Psalmists themselves encourage us to go with our questions.  These Psalms aren’t the only places people wonder “how long” they will have to endure in the Bible, but they do show us where we can take our questions - "How long, O LORD” - and where we can take comfort even without a full answer.  

I love Psalm 13, which starts immediately with not one, not two, not three, but FOUR times asking the question “how long.”  David is really struggling in this Psalm!  Yet the Psalm ends almost as soon as it has begun, because even without an answer to His question, David found the answer He really needed: Psalm 13:5-6 “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.”

When we know the Lord’s mercy and grace, when we trust in His steadfast love, that doesn’t make our problems go away, but it does put them in a much different light.  Even now, we are held in the hands of the one who has patiently and carefully brought us this far.  Even now, we receive all things from our loving and faithful Father.  Even now, we can have confidence in His salvation.  He has, and still is, dealing bountifully with us.  We have all we need.  Even now, and forever into the future, He will use all things to work His good purposes in our lives.

If you resonate with the cry of the Psalmists, take a page out of their book, and bring that cry before the throne of the One who holds Heaven and Earth in the palm of His hand.  He is much more capable of handling all our questions than we are.

As we prepare to worship our sovereign Lord together tomorrow morning via Zoom video conferencing, feel free to contact me for the bulletin and call-in details.  I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow morning for worship.

In Him,

Jonathan

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