questions in bubbles

Psalm 13 – How Long, Lord?

 February 27, 2024

Many of us have reason to cry out with the writer of Psalm 13-how long, Lord? How long do we have to wait? Must we suffer forever? How much longer until our trials are over? The writer of Psalm 13 wrestled with these questions.

Psalm 13

The author asks four times in Psalm 13 – How long?

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?” (1-2)

It is a short psalm, but with much substance. Only six verses, but ones to which we can relate. Who hasn’t thought, “How long?” at different times in their lives? Who hasn’t wondered, has God forgotten me? Why is God hiding his face from me? How long must I spend my days, wresting with my thoughts, trying to figure out why this has happened, sorrowing and grieving? Will I be a loser forever, with my enemy triumphing over me? The psalm packs a lot of power in just two verses.

The writer goes from asking how long, to pleading with God to answer his questions and help him understand the reasons.

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.” (3-4)

In the end, the writer trusts in God’s unfailing love. He moves from despair to praise, because of God’s goodness.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.” (5-6)

How Long?

When faced with a cancer diagnosis or other life-threatening condition, the first question is often, how long? How much time do I have? Human minds want to know. Doctors don’t like that question. Who knows with any certainty? They don’t like being wrong.

Funny though, we don’t ask how long when things are going well. Maybe we are afraid we will jinx it. We just want to hold on to the good days.

Chances are the writer of Psalm 13 has good reasons for asking God how long. We don’t know the specific reasons for the questions, which makes it easy for us to add our own reasons. We might be struggling with a chronic health condition or a long healing process. Perhaps a loved one is under hospice care, awaiting death. At one moment we cry out, “how long?” as we feel we can no longer bear watching our loved one suffer. At the same time, we can’t stand the thought of our loved one being gone.

Or perhaps we are dealing with a recurring problem, one that keeps coming back, always with more force. My mom’s journey through Alzheimer’s has me asking how long.

We play whack-a-mole. Just when we think we have the problem resolved, there it is again. How long do we have to deal with this we think? Every time we bang one mole away, another pops up.

Psalm 13 – how long?

The writer appears to be one who is prone to overthinking, wrestling with his thoughts. Perhaps you can relate to that.  Maybe you feel the need to figure everything out, to understand why what happened, happened. Perhaps you just can’t let the problem go. You toss and turn thinking that if you could only understand then you would have an answer. You would know how to resolve your problem. However, some problems simply don’t have answers.

We may be ready to despair. In our despair, we can learn from Psalm 13 to turn to God and ask for an answer. And when we still don’t receive an answer, we can learn to simply rest in our God’s loving arms and sing God’s praises despite our problems. Such is the way of the psalmist. Such is the way of the spiritual greats among us. They recognize that they don’t always have an answer. They are able to trust in the Lord, even when there is no answer in sight. When evil appears to prevail. Such is the gift of Psalm 13.

What about you? Have there been times in your life when you have cried out like the writer of Psalm 13 – how long, Lord? What was going on at the time? How did you resolve your problem, or did you?

This post is part of a series on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and receive a free copy of Still Dancing, the second book in my Dancing through Life series.

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