How Long? Oh Lord

March 29, 2019

All Scripture from NIV unless otherwise documented.

1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? 3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; 4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. 5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me. Psalm 13

It’s been my experience that when trouble comes into a person’s life, they have one of two responses concerning God. One response is to blame God. To take the hurt and the fear that they are experiencing in their lives and to blame God for it. This response is often couched in questions such as, why is God doing this to me or why is God letting these things happen? I believe that those who respond in this manner have a fundamental misunderstanding of who God is and what He is like. Others respond by drawing closer to Him and leaning on Him for help in times of trouble. Even so, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have questions. Questions such as how long must I endure this hardship God? Or, what are you wanting me to learn from this God? Sometimes, even seasoned believers struggle with thoughts that maybe God has abandoned them or for some reason He isn’t paying attention to their troubles and their prayers.

In the early 80’s when I was attending college at what is now called San Diego Christian College in El Cajon California, we had some fantastic speakers in for our three times a week chapel services. I remember one sermon on Psalm 13. I thought it was delivered by Chuck Smith who was the founder and pastor of the Calvary Chapel movement in Costa Mesa California but I’m not sure if he was the speaker.

I remember the speaker talking about having gone through a dry spell in his relationship with God. He felt like God wasn’t listening to him and he was not experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in his life. His enthusiasm for ministry was suffering because he felt distant from God. Believing that the Word of God had the answer to the abandonment he was experiencing, he turned to the Psalms and determined not to quit reading until God spoke to Him from the Scriptures. It didn’t take long. When he came to Psalm 13 his burden was lifted and the joy of his relationship to God was restored.
As we deal with this Covid-19 virus, I can just imagine that there are many Christians who are struggling with some of the same questions that David, the king of Israel expressed in his writing of this Psalm. How long will you forget me, forever? How long will you hide from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts of panic and fear and be afraid? How long will my enemy (this viral health issue) triumph over me? Where are you oh God? When will you hear my prayer and answer?

These were legitimate questions for David. David was just a boy of around 15 years old when Samuel came to his home and anointed him king over Israel. Saul was still king, but God had rejected Saul because of his disobedience, and had chosen David to take his place. Shortly after David was anointed by Samuel, he was put into Saul’s service to play the lyre to Saul and help calm him when an evil spirit came upon him to torment him. David evidently spent most of his time at home tending sheep but would come to Saul when called into service. It was during this time that Israel was at war with the Philistines and they were being taunted by the giant Goliath. Jesse sent David with grain, loaves and cheeses to his brothers who were in the army and David saw Goliath taunting the army of God. Still only a young man, probably under the age of 20, he slew Goliath and Saul then kept David with him and gave him a high rank in the army. But Saul quickly became jealous of David’s popularity and hurled a spear at him as he played the lyre for him.

That began a time trust and distrust between David and Saul and eventually David fled in fear of Saul. For the next 10 years, David was on the run from Saul, hiding out in caves, spending time in enemy lands, etc. It may have been during this time when both foreign enemies and his own countrymen under the orders of Saul were seeking to kill him, that David penned this Psalm. To David, it seemed that God had forgotten about him. Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you feel that way now during this pandemic. Have you ever thought that maybe, God isn’t really concerned with what is going on in your life? Or maybe you have just felt like you aren’t that significant, why should God be concerned about your problems?

When the Israelites were about to cross the Jordon into the promised land, Moses said to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous . . . The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” I think that those are timely words for us to hear today. Through these difficult days, when so many are getting sick and dying, we should not be discouraged for God will not leave us or forsake us. He will go with us and be with us no matter what we face. Think about it for a minute. God promised to go with the Israelites into the Promised Land, and He promised that He would be with them, but He didn’t promise that all would be smooth sailing.

They faced enemies that they had to fight and overcome, and yes, many of them died in the process. But God was with them and as a people, they overcame their enemies and took possession of the promised land. How long oh Lord will you forget me? God’s answer is never. We need to understand that God is with us, no matter what’s going on our how we feel about things, God is there. If you believe that God is omniscient, then it is literally impossible for God to forget about you and what is going on in your life. And if you believe that God loves you, then you know that He is concerned and paying attention to what’s happening in your life.

How long will you hide your face from me? Did you ever play hide and seek? One player covers their eyes and counts to a given number while everyone else runs off and hides, then the person who had their eyes covered tries to find everyone that has hidden. But that’s not how it works with God. The reality is that we are the ones that hide our face from God. I seem to remember when Moses was on the mountain and God wanted to reveal His glory to Moses, Moses had to hide behind the rocks because God’s glory was too much to behold. And I believe that we have a tendency also, to hide our face from God because of our sinfulness. But God is always there, even when He might not seem to be. Jesus said, “I am with you always!”

Matthew 28: 20 If we can’t find God’s face, then maybe we should be looking at our own lives and asking, what is it that is keeping my face hidden from God? David, in another of His Psalms said, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139: 23- 24 Could it be that when we feel that God is hiding His face from us, that it is either sin making us feel this way, or it is really us hiding from God, not wanting to get too close to Him because of some unconfessed sin in our life?

And then David asked, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” Last week I mentioned that some people have a very difficult time of letting go of something bad that has happened to them in their lives. They replay it over, and over again, and it keeps them from ever having a happy, normal and victorious life. And I said that reading and memorizing Philippians 4: 8 & 9 you would have a good passage to remember to help kick start your prayers when this was happening. I think that’s what David was talking about here.

Wrestling, not with God, and not with His Word, but wrestling with his own thoughts and with his own fears and his own sorrows. Living your life in a constant pity party saying woe is me, woe is me. With this covid-19 virus, we are hearing constant updates on how many people are being confirmed to have the virus and how many have died. I even saw a website page for Polk county this week showing how many confirmed cases there were (0), how many had been tested and how many had come back negative and how many others were still out in the process. Some good advice that I also heard this week is to not listen to more than one hour of news a day in order to lessen the stress of all this. You don’t have to wrestle with your thoughts and have sorrow in your heart. Trust God no matter what!

Then the fourth question, how long will my enemy triumph over me? That’s a pretty good question, and I think the answer is as simple as this, as long as we allow him to. David ran from Saul and his army for 8 – 10 years. Even when he had the opportunities to kill Saul, he refused to do so because Saul was God’s chosen king. I believe that David felt that when God believed that he was ready to assume the throne, that God would take care of Saul, and eventually that’s what happened. I had a thought also that maybe David believed that if he killed Saul, and assumed the throne, that he would be setting a precedent that others would follow and he would have to be constantly looking over his shoulder for the next usurper.

So, David was struggling spiritually in some ways, just like some of you may be struggling during this trying time. David cried out to God in desperate prayer, “Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.” Verses 3 & 4

And then David said what we all need to hear, and what we need to be able to say, even when we are going through difficult trials or when we are afraid, or we are anxious. He said “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.”
The word but is a conjunction and is “used to introduce a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned.” In other words, David was saying, God, even though I feel that you’re not listening or that your hiding your face from me and that my enemies are overtaking me, “I’m going to trust in your “unfailing love”. I’m going to rejoice in your salvation. I’m going to sing to you, for you have been good to me!

David chose to stand on what he knew, not on how he felt. I believe that when we do the same, when we choose to trust in what we know about God, about His love, about His faithfulness, and all of the other things that we can know from the Scriptures, we won’t feel alone and afraid.
I have long said that feelings are fickle. What you feel about something is not necessarily in line with reality, especially when it comes to God. Stand on what you know about God. He loved you enough to send His one and only Son to die to pay the penalty of your sin. When you feel that God doesn’t care, or when you feel like your enemies are overcoming you, trust in His unfailing love, and rejoice in your salvation. Sing to the Lord, for He has been good to you.

When you feel like God isn’t there, open your Bible and start reading and read until God speaks to you through His word. 1 Peter 5: 7 says “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” During this fearful time, when many have been ordered to stay home and some have chosen to isolate themselves to help prevent the spread of this virus, take heed of David’s words that were written so long ago. Words that he penned in response to the things he was feeling. Words that can help bring peace of heart and mind to those of you who are likewise feeling that maybe God isn’t listening. Let David’s example be that of your own as you choose to stand on what you know about God by trusting in his unfailing love, rejoicing in your salvation, and singing to God in praise for how good He has been to you.