How Long? (Psalm 13)

I am learning to be content in my current season of life. As a single, the LORD is teaching me the blessings of singleness. Still, a desire for marriage remains on the forefront of my mind and heart. At 25 years old and only a short-term relationship to account for, questions of timing loom. Yes, I know everything will happen according to God’s will in God’s timing. But waiting for a relationship to happen sometimes feels like asking, “How long, O LORD?” I am sure you have experienced the same sentiment. Maybe you are not waiting for a relationship to happen. You may be hoping a wayward child will see their error and return to you and to God. You may be praying for your spouse to quit pursuing the lusts of the world and, instead, show their love to you. You may be crying out to God as one who has recently been diagnosed with an illness or cancer. Whatever the situation may be, many of us find ourselves asking God, “How long?”

How Long?

We are not alone in asking this question. Faced with some type of opposition, King David asked this question too. In Psalm 13, we hear King David open up by asking four times, “How long?” He says:

  • “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” (v. 1a)
  • “How long will you hide your face from me?” (v. 1b)
  • “How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?” (v. 2a)
  • “How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (v. 2b)

In asking these questions, David is not accusing the LORD of unfaithfulness. Nor is David stating the LORD has mentally forgotten about him. Understanding the Psalms as Hebrew poetry, what David is doing here is expressing his feelings. Amid his circumstances, David says he feels as if the LORD is indifferent toward him. Judging by his feelings and surroundings, it appears God has abandoned him, hiding His face from him. What leads David to despair is this feeling. With nowhere else to turn he takes counsel in his own soul and finds himself drowned in sorrow. By the looks of it, David’s enemy has the upper hand.

Dealing with Feelings

How does David deal with his feelings? Because the LORD does not feel present, does David settle into despair? Verse 1 gives us a clue the answer to such a question is “No!” Although it may appear God is in hiding, David still addresses God, “How long, O LORD?” Moreover, verses 3–4 give further evidence David deals with his feelings by bringing them to the LORD. He pleads, “Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death” (13:3). Whether he is speaking figuratively or literally in the second half of the verse regarding this sleep, David seeks to hear from the LORD in the hopes of things being brought to light. The purpose of David’s petition is so that David’s enemies may not boast in seeing David down.

Faith-Informed Feelings

After hearing David’s petition, one may assume to find the LORD’s answer. However, we do not find such in the closing verses of this psalm. Instead, we find feeling informed by faith in God. David’s closing remarks are a blueprint for how we ought to respond when we are faced with trying circumstances in life. When we do not understand what God is doing and when it appears as if He has left the situation, we should respond with David, “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” (13:5–6). We should not neglect our feelings but neither should we allow them to rule our lives. We must allow our faith to inform our feelings. How do we do this? By looking to the cross. The steadfast love of God was displayed on the cross, where Jesus Christ took the punishment we deserved for our sins by dying in our place for the forgiveness of sins. If we have trusted in this steadfast loving God, then we can rejoice in the salvation we have received. When we look to the cross, we see God loves us and cares for us. Faith-informed feelings, then, tell us to focus our eyes on the cross, not our circumstances. We will most certainly still have moments where we ask “How long?” but we ask it knowing God is there with us, not away from us.

Reflection Questions:

  • What is a current situation or circumstance in your life where you are asking, “How long?” How does this trial affect your view of the character of God?
  • Why should faith in God inform our feelings amidst circumstances and situations we face?
  • How does the gospel impact our view of God and of our circumstances?

15871997_10210430005099789_6580064576224717116_nThis post was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.

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