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How Long

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1).

The book of Psalms covers a wide range of emotions. In some of them, the author is expressing joy, glorifying God for some great act or some beautiful creation. Others are expressions of grief, in which the psalmist mourns over his situation or the depraved state of humanity. In still others, the author simply wants understanding. He is in the middle of something difficult, and he wants to know why this is happening to him. So he cries out to God, hoping to gain some measure of understanding from Him. Psalm 13, written by King David, is an example of one such psalm.

The psalm begins with a poignant question: “How long, O LORD?” At first glance, this is nothing but an expression of despair. David is clearly in distress, and he feels that he’s been in this situation quite long enough. But going a little deeper, this question is also an expression of confidence in God. David isn’t asking if God is going to help him; he’s asking when. The very phrase “how long” indicates that David realizes there will eventually be an end to his suffering. Already, he knows that God will rescue him from this.

But knowing that doesn’t make things any easier. David is weary of his enemies’ exultation, sick of the silence of God. Essentially, he is depressed. Though he knows God will answer him eventually, he’s tired of waiting. Every day is a burden, and he just wants out. He needs to know why God is taking so long.

As David writes out his frustrations, however, something begins to happen. After an impassioned plea for God to not give him over to the provocation of his enemies, David writes, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation” (Psalm 13:5). Though David remains in the exact situation as when he began the psalm, his spirit has somehow been revived. He has remembered all the times God has saved him before. Will He fail to do so now? Though David has not yet seen God’s salvation in this instance, he trusts that it will come in time. He will rejoice in it even before he sees it, confident that God will act according to His character. “I will sing to the LORD,” he proclaims, “because he has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:6). Not “dealt well”, or even “wonderfully”—but “bountifully”. In the middle of this difficult circumstance, David can still rejoice over the incredible ways in which God has helped him and blessed him. God has dealt bountifully with him in the past, and He will continue to do so now. He will not hide His face forever; He will come soon, and His salvation will be beautiful to behold.

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