How Long, oh Lord?

Yesterday in worship I was struck by the cry of Psalm 13.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Like many, I am naturally drawn to the psalms of trust and praise.  I seek to be an upbeat, positive person who sees the cup half-filled.  I prefer the happy psalms that shout praise to God.  Bless the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Psalm 103:2  So when I hear the psalms of complaint and lament, it seems to grate upon my ears and rub against my soul.  Shouldn’t we rejoice and avoid lamentations?

However the book of psalms has almost an equal number of lament psalms as praise psalms.  The book reflects God’s desire to hear our tears and anguish as well as our joys and thanksgiving.  All of life is God’s territory. 

One of the wonders of Psalm 13 is how the psalmist addresses God, even when God seems hidden and aloof.  These questions are not for casual conversation with friends, but a deep cry of the soul to God. Four times the psalmist cries out to God, “How long?”, not knowing when the answer will come, but trusting it will be heard.

Kathy was a parishioner who was wrestling with a potentially terminal illness.  She wanted to live, yet unsure if she had the strength to continue the journey.  When she came to my office, I listened to her complaint and then together we prayed Psalm 13.  The words touched a deep part of her soul, giving her permission to express the throttle cries of her heart, “how long, oh Lord?”

Psalm 13 has a marvelous ending of hope, common to many psalms of lament.

But I trusted in your steadfast love;
y heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because he has dealt bountifully with me.

The psalmist still trusted God, even in the sorrow. God has been faithful in the past and will be faithful in the future, so sing to the Lord.  Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5

When was a time you cried out in complaint to God?  How did God respond?

Lord Jesus, teach us to trust in your steadfast love.

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