How Long? Psalm 13

A friend brought my attention back to Psalm 13 the other day. It’s her favorite as she struggles with a reoccurring cancer. But you don’t need cancer to wonder “how long?” in your life.

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
And have sorrow in my heart all day?
How long shall me enemy be exalted over me?

There are times when it just feels as if it has been a long time since God has been involved in our lives. Often, it’s because of something happened that separated ourselves from him. It might be a sin that hardened our hearts, or it just could be busyness with good things which replace being with him. Like a good friend, sometimes the relationship just slips away with time and distance…

And then we miss them. 

We miss him.

And it’s easy to blame the other person, or to blame God. He’s forgotten us, hidden himself from us. Almost more than him, we miss the blessings which came from the relationship. We should be safe and prosperous, and if we aren’t, it must be God’s fault.

But…we need to look for the “but.”

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

When we turn our face towards the Lord and who he is, our attitude completely changes. It’s about the relationship we have, not what we think we are missing. I have friends who through time and distance feel far. Yet I know the feelings are still rich between us and, in a moment’s notice, their heart would be next to mine. Busyness and distance may have gotten in the way, but they are there for me and love me. 

And so it is with the Lord, just in perfection. We may not be feeling his blessing, but it’s there. We may not be feeling his presence, but he’s there. We may feel others are getting further in life than we are, but we have what really counts – the love of the Lord.

How long?

We may be wondering, How long until Covid is over? God may feel far in the midst of racial injustice and cities burning and election politics. We grow impatient. We wonder, How long until my business is back? Until my money runs out? Until I find a job? Until I meet my soulmate? Until my cancer is healed? Until there is justice?

The list goes on…with silence from God concerning the timing. Instead, he answers us with his presence if we turn away from the problems and seek him.

The question is, Can we see what we have instead of what we want? Can we trust in him and his love? Can we see the bounty all around us?

Desperation – Psalm 69

Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the deep mire where there is no foothold;I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am wary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. (Psalm 69:1-3)

I’ve been there, haven’t you? Desperate for my God. Waters rising, sometimes slowly, sometimes a rush. I loose my footing; everything that gave me balance slowly slips away, like mud eroding beneath my feet. The water gets deeper and I can’t touch bottom, or even know how deep it is. The terror overwhelms until capacity runs out. I’m weary, limp, letting each wave move me until the light of hope grows dim.

Right now is a scary time. Things that once supported us are slipping away. We see the waves of Covid come closer. Economics are uncertain and jobs are slipping out from under us. Politics are uncertain with values, assumptions, even familiar sites are destroyed. We reach out, but little is secure.

And it’s probably not as deep as it may get in the future, when we actually lose our job, our health, our “nest egg.” The anxiety we feel now is actually a good thing because it helps us to keep fighting. But what about when we become so overwhelmed that we don’t have the strength to go on…

My goal has not been to depress you, and I apologize if I have brought you down, but I have found, personally, that facing reality even if it is hard, is helpful. I know what to expect, what feelings I am going to have. And then, in faith, I can start claiming God’s “steadfast love.” Psychologists call it “normalization” — in realizing feelings are overwhelming as much as “normal” in a situation like we are in.

It’s normal to feel desperate to lose a loved one without being able to say goodbye or give one last hug. It’s normal to jump when someone sneezes. It’s normal to mourn the loss of co-workers who are laid off. It’s all part of our desperation, the mud slipping from underneath out feet.

What do we do with desperation?

I would lose all hope except for the “but” in the Psalms…

But as for me, my pray is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me in your saving faithfulness. Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me. (Psalms 13:15)

First, it is a choice…for me…the “who.” Will I depend on the news source, the medical community, the political party, even my family and friends as wonderful as they are?

Second, I recognize who is in charge of “when” is an “acceptable time.” My Lord and my God, who made the universe that we are just now figuring out how old it is! He created time, the sun and the moon that tell us what day it is. He knows, from his perspective, what is the “acceptable time” in my life.

Third, I realize the “why” he would save me — his steadfast love. Covid, injustices, destruction, even death are not beyond his “steadfast love.” It’s his heart, his motivation, it’s what he feels (yes, God is not unfeeling) towards me.

Fourth, I embrace the “how” — his “saving faithfulness.” No enemy is more powerful than the creator of the universe. No matter what the outcome of the elections, the diseases, the economy, or anything else that may take my life, my livelihood, my security, he has me. He will be faithful because faithfulness is his character.

I end up feeling as if someone has put rocks beneath my feet — four of them! The who, when, why and how. My head rises above the water. I feel a surge of strength, of hope.

I don’t know “what” is going to come next, but I have made the choice to stand on his rocks and pray, pray, pray!