How Long, O LORD?
By Lee Jones
Usually when we ask “how long?” we are inquiring about the wait for a table at our favorite restaurant, or the tenure of someone’s last job, or to time out the next bathroom break while on a road trip.
But David means something much different when he asks that question four times in the course of this psalm. He asks a question that many of us ask, but maybe not with the same words.
By His blood, Jesus will not only cleanse you of the guilt of your sin, but will reconcile you to the One True God and give you an inheritance with saints.
“How long?” is the way David seeks God’s help and deliverance. While it sounds like despair, it’s a statement of anticipation of relief at YHWH’s hands. Why do I say that?
Verse 5 is why. “But I have trusted in your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.” David doesn’t despair. He brings his petition in V. 3,4, for YHWH to enlighten his eyes or else he’ll die and his haters will cheer.
So how do we balance this out? We’ve seen time and again in the first 2 psalms alone that David has no issue (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) to raise his complaint and petition to God while simultaneously reminding himself that he believes God will deliver him. That’s not cognitive dissonance, that’s faith working itself out in our sufferings.
We tend to have the mistaken notion that it’s not spiritual to complain to God, as He is sovereign over everything. Now while it’s true that He certainly is sovereign over everything, so we have to wonder why “How long” is repeated something like 20 times in just the book of Psalms alone. Because we are to “be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Paul writes that with full knowledge that our Heavenly Father knows what we need before we ask for it (see Matt. 6:8). Yet we are still to petition God for our needs. No matter is too trivial for YHWH to hear.
Many of us have had periods of suffering where we begin to ask, “How long until this is over and life can go back to normal?” Sometimes it’s health-related, sometimes it’s an interpersonal struggle, sometimes it’s difficulties at work. Whatever the reason, YHWH’s ear is always open to His covenant children.
If you identify with the soul-pain that the world and our own sin afflicts us with, and you have not repented and believed in Jesus Christ as your savior, I plead with you to do so. By His blood, He will not only cleanse you of the guilt of your sin, but will reconcile you to the One True God and give you an inheritance with saints. Then you, like your brothers and sisters in the faith walking beside you, can have David’s perspective on suffering, one of hope even in the darkest times.
Run to Christ, lost friend, and receive the forgiveness you never thought you needed. Run to Christ, found friend, for the life-sustaining fellowship with your Redeemer that carries you through every storm.
Glory to God alone.