How long, Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
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?
Psalm 13:1-2 NIVUK
This is the “How long” Psalm. Just a few verses but profound in its message. “How long” appears four times in the first two verses, so it must have been a phrase significant in David’s mind when he wrote this Psalm. In the first verse he questions God’s silence and accuses Him of forgetting him. In the second he turns inward and asks the same question of his soul. He must have been an impatient and demanding man at times!
We too get caught up in “How long” situations. How long will I have to put up with this illness? How long will I have to work at this job? How long will I …. (fill in your own problem). In Western society we are very much wired into expectations that we want delivered instantly. Instant coffee. Turn on a tap and water comes out instantly. Even though, rationally, we know that “instant” is not always possible, it doesn’t stop the expectations of immediacy from rolling in, nagging us with their strident demands. Some want to lose weight. Or learn a foreign language. Or play a musical instrument. Or get a University degree. Instantly! Right now! We want to download a film from the internet instantly and pursue the fastest broadband solution to get as close to instant as we can. We want an electric car (when we can afford to buy one!) to charge up – yes, you’ve guessed it – instantly. The opportunities for the demands of the “How long” generation are endless. Frustration builds and dissatisfaction permeates our minds and corrupts our very souls when “instant” cannot be delivered.
David wasn’t caught up with ancient Jewish gadgets though. Or the faucets in the palace plumbing. Rather, he was in a hard place, once again, because of his enemies. And obviously he was getting impatient with God for not dealing with them. Note that he wasn’t saying that the issue was too hard for God to sort out. He was instead trying to twist God’s arm into helping him out of his predicament sooner rather than later, as we can see in his demanding prayer in verse 3.
The worldly spirit of urgency also has a pervasive influence on our Christian lives. We want an immediate answer to prayer. We want to see church growth straight away, by Sunday, or perhaps the next, God, if you can’t organise it earlier. But we worship a God whose timing in everything is totally spot on. Never too late. Never too early.
Many years ago my daughter was hospitalised with a serious, and at the time possibly terminal, illness. The prognosis was grim. And around the world good Christian people prayed for her. A well known itinerant preacher with a proven healing ministry prayed at her bedside. The church Elders anointed her with oil. The family held a daily vigil, each day and most of each night. I personally rattled Heaven’s gates asking God to bring about a breakthrough. But one day halfway through her four months in hospital, I was summoned from my office in Glasgow to her bedside in Edinburgh, the medics fearing the worst. And half way along the M8 motorway I was crying out to God, yes – you’ve guessed it, “How long” God? And amazingly I heard this voice from the back seat say, “Trust Me”. God in His mercy heard my anguish and gave me something that has stayed with me ever since. A reminder that He is in control of all situations and His timing will be perfect. There were further crises in her remaining hospital stay, but we were eventually allowed to bring her home to commence a long, but successful, convalescence. God healed her, not instantly as we would have liked, but nevertheless He healed her. And those two words, “Trust Me” turned me from being a “Believer” into being a “Knower”.
David finished his Psalm with a declaration of his trust in God’s love, in faith rejoicing in the coming rescue, proclaiming the goodness of God. We don’t know how long David had to wait for God to sort out his enemies. But perhaps, as David lifted his thoughts into Heavenly places, the importance of his problems dimmed, replaced by the comforting arms of his Lord and God, and that still small whisper, “Trust Me”