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How Long?

by Sue Wilson

14th January 2021

David starts Psalm 13 by crying out,


“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?”


How long? This is the question many of us are asking right now. It’s the question we hear directed almost daily at our politicians and scientists but also the question we wearily ask and are asked, by our family and friends.


“How long…until my children can go back to school?”

“How long…before I can have the vaccine?”

“How long…until we can hold normal Sunday services?”

“How long…before I can hug my friends?”

“How long…until I can travel to see my loved one?”


The list goes on and on…


A Jewish translation of verse two says,

“How long will I have cares on my mind, grief in my heart all day?”


Our 3rd lockdown can feel a bit like that. Some of us have faced illness directly, others have seen friends or family members suffer. Whether you have lost your job or today are under too much pressure in your place of work, whether you long for the day when your children return to school, or you are desperate for the time you are no longer alone in your silent house, whatever our circumstances, we all have cares on our mind. We all wrestle with our thoughts in these difficult days.


David responded as he did repeatedly in the Psalms by being totally honest with God. He didn’t hold back. He certainly didn’t tell God he was fine. He poured out his feelings before God, verbalised his fears and acknowledged before the Almighty that he was struggling.


He then continues in verse 3,


“Look on me and answer, Lord my God.

 Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,

 And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”

 and my foes will rejoice when I fall.”


We are not told why David was in such anguish. He could have been physically ill or emotionally struggling, he may have been at war, he could have been fleeing from his enemies or he may have been in a time of acknowledging his weakness and his failings before God. Whatever the cause of these deep cries of anguish, David knew the solution to his struggles wasn’t in him, but in God.


The Psalm then suddenly changes gear. At the point where David was imagining his enemy’s response when he was defeated and could not get up, he didn’t sink lower, but instead he looked up to God. In his lowest point fear is transformed into faith. At the point when all hope is gone a renewed confidence unexpectedly bursts forth:


“But I trust in your unfailing love;

 my heart rejoices in your salvation.


“BUT I trust…”


Again in Psalm 73v26 David declares,


“My flesh and my heart may fail,

BUT God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.


David doesn’t say, “Once my enemies have fled…” or “When my sadness is over…” He doesn’t even try and sort out the difficulties himself. David knew God’s unfailing love, even in the midst of pressures and heartache. Faith in God caused his fears to be silenced.  


Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had this same faith when they were facing the fiery furnace (Daniel 3). Their faith in the Almighty God resulted in them declaring to King Nebuchadnezzar,


“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it…BUT even if he does not, we want you to know your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”


Even Job, a man more renown for being a coward trying hard to dodge God, rather than a man of faith, declared whilst still deep inside the fish,


“To the roots of the mountains I sank down,

The earth beneath barred me in for ever.

BUT you, Lord my God,

Brought my life up from the pit.”  


David, Job, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego all faced a range of huge difficulties, but their faith was not limited by what was happening around them. Their faith in God’s love enabled them to overcome their circumstances whilst still in the midst of their troubles.


David’s focus changed when he remembered God’s unfailing love. His questioning ceased when he remembered God’s salvation, God stepping in, God providing a way out, in the way only God could do. Had he been given answers to his questions? None are recorded in the Psalm. Had he received news that his enemies had been defeated? Again, it doesn’t appear so. And yet through faith he could declare God’s goodness, even in the midst of sufferings he could end his song by declaring,


“I will sing the Lord’s praise,

for he has been good to me.”


David and these other men all showed tremendous faith in the face of many trials. This 3rd lockdown is hard. It’s cold outside and most people are weary of living with restrictions but it’s better than facing a fiery furnace. We still have many questions but at least we’re not trying to figure a way out of the belly of a fish. And most importantly we know Jesus and our salvation brings us hope. 


We know Jesus, the one who died and who rose again. We know the one who has the name higher than any other name. We know that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. There will be no more questioning. There will be no more sickness or crying or pain. There will be no more sighs of “How long?” And because of this we can praise, even with our questions.