Psalm 13 –How Long, Lord? Is God ever Late?

 March 6, 2018

How long, Lord? How long, indeed. God sure takes his time!

“You are never late for yoga class,” my instructor used to say. “Whenever you arrive, you are just in time.” I was reminded of this while reflecting on Psalm 13. How long, the Psalmist cries out. God is taking his time to respond to the writer’s pleas for help. The whole idea of lateness is a human construct. Does it apply to God?

One friend waited seven years before getting a position in his field of study. During this time he hobbled together a living with a part-time position, speaking engagements and counseling. And yet, as he ended his part-time position and prepared for his new position, he reflected that this was precisely what his family had needed for that period. It had allowed him more time with his family at a time when he was needed at home. God took his time and yet he was just in time.

For someone who is in the midst of depression or other suffering, God and the comfort God provides cannot come too soon. They might well cry out with the psalmist, “How long, Lord?”

Psalm 13

Psalm 13 is a very simple one, a lament. It follows the normal structure of a lament, with a complaint, vs. 1-2, an appeal, vs. 3-4, and an expression of confidence in God’s help, vs. 5-6. There is beauty in its simplicity and sincerity of expression.

We don’t know the specific source of the writer’s distress. We do know that it was a very heavy burden that had been going on for a long time, and that there were some who took delight in his troubles. His circumstances are so extreme that he is close to death, “Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death.” (3b) He is concerned that his enemies will claim victory over him, “And my enemy will say, ‘I have prevailed’; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.” (4)

He doesn’t understand why God appears to be indifferent to his cries. In his trials, God seems to be far away, “How long will you hide your face from me?” (1b)

How long, is repeated four times, indicating the severity of his troubles. God appears to have forgotten all about him, has even hidden his face from him. He is in pain and his enemies are rejoicing over him. His condition is so bad that he feels he is close to death. All signs point to depression.

From Despair to Hope

When caught in a cycle of depression it can be hard to remember that life wasn’t always this way, that there have been good times. The depression feels like it has gone on forever and there was never a time of happiness that we can remember. It colors our present as well as our past as the past is seen through a cloud of misery and robs the future of hope. We can feel trapped with no way out. But even in depression, there is hope.

The writer doesn’t remain in despair but moves to hope, putting his trust in the Lord and his steadfast love. He trusts in God even when the night is darkest. Not only that, his trust is such that he is moved to song. He rejoices in his God, “I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (6)

Hope spring eternal, it is present amidst winter snow. God can turn winter depression into spring song. He did it for the psalmist, and he can do it for us. We all have bad days, for some those days go on longer than for others. When caught in a cycle of depression, it can feel like God is absent. Yet God is there, even when we can’t feel God’s presence, as sure as the sun is present behind the clouds. God always responds to our prayers, but sometimes he takes his time in responding because God’s time is not the same as our time. God can take a long time in human terms. It can even seem like God is late. But whenever God shows up, he is always on time.

Have there been times in your life when God arrived just in time? Has God’s timing ever surprised you? I would love to hear your story!


This post is part of a series on the Psalms. Click on the button to follow the blog and receive a free copy of the book, Dancing on a High Wire, book 1 of the Dancing Through Life Series!   click here to follow blog

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