EL CAJON, Calif. (BP)–Do your problems seem insurmountable? Taking too long to detangle? In Psalms we find writers who felt the same way and asked the plaintive question, “How long, Lord?”
In Psalm 13, David’s poignant “How Long” is packed with emotion, yet there’s a clear progression to his thoughts. Its six verses describe a three-fold response to those long nights of heartache when tomorrow seems far away.
THE GROPING PHASE
In verses 1 and 2, David was groping. He wrote: “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?”
David’s prolonged, “How long?” is a bitter but biblical cry. He was a man of God, after God’s own heart. Yet he groped for answers and cried out, “How long?”
THE COPING PHASE
Psalm 13 also talks about coping through the medium of prayer: “Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him'” (verses 3-4).
David turned to prayer and begged God to hear him lest his night of sorrow never end. Prolonged trouble can teach us about prevailing prayer. Through unanswered prayer, we learn patience.
We need to progress spiritually from groping to coping, using the wonderful availability of prayer — even when the answers seem delayed. “Consider and hear me, O Lord!” — that’s our cry.
THE HOPING PHASE
As we wait before the Lord with unanswerable questions and unsolvable problems, He wants to move us into the hoping phase that ends this Psalm. Notice that Psalm 13 begins with a sigh and ends with a song: “But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me” (verses 5-6).
I’m not sure David’s circumstances had changed; but through prayer, he had moved into an attitude of hope, of trust, of optimism and of sustained joy.
A wise elderly blind woman said, “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time….” Moving into a nursing home, she told the attendant she loved her room.
“But you haven’t seen it” said the attendant.
“It doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged,” the woman responded “It’s how I arrange my mind.
Amidst difficult news, serious problems and drawn-out challenges, we make a choice. We can either gripe and complain, or we can lift up our eyes to the Lord and say, “God, I don’t know what is going on here; I don’t truly understand it. But I will put my trust in You, and I will praise You with all my heart. I will arrange my mind according to the promises of Your Word.”
In doing that, here are the two rules to follow.
First, keep going forward. Don’t collapse or faint. The book of Proverbs says, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small” (Proverbs 24:10). Take each day as it comes, put one foot in front of the other, and just keep going — just do it. The Bible calls this perseverance, walking by faith and not by sight.
Second, keep looking upward. Remember what King Jehoshaphat said when faced by his enemies in 2 Chronicles 20:12: “We have no power against this great multitude coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”
Our God is a very present help in trouble, and we can come boldly to Him for grace to help in time of need. Though He tarries, He does not deny. He has His own timetable, and sometimes His schedule seems slow to our mortal minds. But the promise is sure: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
The night doesn’t last forever, and tomorrow will surely come. Our job isn’t to mope, grope or even to cope. It’s to hope in His unchanging grace. Put one foot in front of the other, and keep looking up.
David Jeremiah is the founder of Turning Point for God, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and chancellor of San Diego Christian College. For more information on Turning Point, go to www.TurningPointOnline.org.