How long, O Lord?

The Psalmist wrote: “How long, O LORD? Will You hide Yourself forever?” (Psalm 89:46).

For many Christians that refrain becomes not just a lament of the moment, but a searing reminder, day after day, year after year. “How long, O LORD?” A sense of abandonment by God. Perhaps you are thinking such a thought is unacceptable for a Christian to utter. For one who has been through the agony, the thought is a frequent companion, and the words express the painful, long, unending wait.

The person calling out to God does so in a loud wail and in a soft whimper. The intensity is not shaped by the volume but by the breaking heart.

Sometimes the plea is met with a bargain, “God if You… then I…” Other times with a complaint, “What have I done to go through this?” And even with a condemnation, “Yes, Lord, I have sinned and this is my punishment.” But even that does not remove the plea.

It can be hard for others to minister to a person who has the ache of “How long, O LORD?” The drain can be overwhelming just listening to it, let alone living it. It is little wonder that many feel the loneliness even among Christians. I treasure each person who walked with us at various stages of our own 37 years of uttering the cry within our hearts.

Having lived that cry of “How long, O LORD?” for 37 years, I have a few observations to make about myself and others. See Too important and The ugliness of the missing. At times the intensity of my cry was such that a full day was too much to handle. If I could make it to mid morning… if I could make it to lunchtime… if I could make it to bed time… if I could only get to sleep, one night.

Tears, anger, frustration, pity, edginess, sadness, helplessness, yes, they were part of my diet for 37 years. Sometimes the periods of relief (no calls from the police, etc.) were so welcomed that I would feel guilty for the break.

Time was measured, waiting for an answer to “How long, O LORD?” For years it seemed as if time stood still. Looking at the clock seemed the obvious solution, as if the time would pass more quickly. But for what benefit? My own discomfort, angst, relief? Yet, measuring time only amplified the sense of “How long.” Yet 37 years gives me a perspective of Paul’s desire for the unbelieving Israelites in Romans 9:

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh. (Romans 9:1-3)

That, too, was on my heart.

Not “How long?” But “How Amazing!”

A little over a week ago our son sent a letter to us, confessing his faith in Jesus Christ. He wrote about this being the first time he had peace in his heart. Bible reading has become a staple for his daily spiritual life. Not only has he received forgiveness from God, but he is learning to forgive himself—as Paul wrote: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1). Knowing what he had been through physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, this is monumental!

In the letter he also thanked us for always loving him, even when he was the worst. He had often said over the years that he could not figure out how we could still love him after all he had done and said. I told each time that it was because of God’s love in Jesus that we could love him. (We love, because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19). Now he is believing and receiving it.

Paul also wrote,

for He says, “at the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.”
Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation” — (2 Cor. 6:2)

So what has changed? We obviously are rejoicing. But as I do so, I am quietly reflective on all this. Was the 37 years of pain, uncertainty, fear, heartache worth it? Absolutely! Was it a living hell? Many times it was, but I would not trade one minute of the 37 years for the joy now of our son confessing Jesus Christ as Lord. In other words, I no longer think in terms of “how long?” But rather, how each moment was part of God’s working in his heart, even unknown to us. Indeed, how amazing!

Our son is learning this truth every day:

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

“How long, O LORD?” is now answered with: “Forever!” Because of our common confession in Jesus Christ, we have an eternity to share with our son. I won’t even have to count minutes, hours, days, weeks, years, or decades, as I had been. Now is the time, today is the day of salvation.

And we give thanks to God for His patience, love, mercy, and amazing grace—to all of us! The plea changes to praise in song!

Amazing Grace

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About exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian
This entry was posted in Depression, Meditatio, Ministry, New Testament, Personal Reflection, Tentatio and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to How long, O Lord?

  1. Nathan Hoff says:

    I’ve been looking forward to reading this post! Thank you for your reflection and encouragement for those in waiting. Grace and peace, friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One of my members in a former congregation had a son that gave him and his wife a lot of grief, tears, and sorrow. He quoted Proverbs 22:5 to me: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” He then said, “The Lord doesn’t tell us about all the stuff that happens in the meantime; but in the end it’s all worth it.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • exegete77 says:

      I don’t want to sound too negative with this. However, Proverbs 22:5 felt a millstone around my neck for 37 years. I hated the verse. It was consuming me with guilt for what I had done wrong to lead our son to do what he did. I also experienced subtle Christian attacks when other Christians would quote that verse. The obvious point was because obviously I had not taught him correctly, and hence…

      Anyway, it took years to get beyond that verse. I am cautious about using it when providing pastoral care in such cases.

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  3. Praise God! Prayers for continued reconciiation. It brings tears to my eyes. Hope for all who believe and NEVER give up!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. erma.elliott47@gmail.com says:

    Romans 5:8 is and always will be one scripture I hold on to. Praying that your son finds comfort there as I have. ee

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Louise Fox says:

    Thank you for sharing your joy with all of us. I always enjoy a great love story! My prayers continue for a rich soil upon which your son will build a strong foundation. Praying for your mom too. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ed Martirosyan says:

    Hey Rich.
    I am very happy the time has come.
    This is Ed from CF and Trinity Lutheran at West Hempstead, NY

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lissa Lefler says:

    What a wonderful story! It brought tears to my eyes knowing that your son has found Christ. For him to confess and apologize and give you the blessed news that he has Christ in his heart now is such a blessing and a relief for you and your wife. Praise God! I am truly happy for you and rejoice knowing that this unbearable chapter is now closed and another blessed chapter is opening for your son and for both of you! May you have many happy times ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. nigelbrown99 says:

    How amazing indeed! So glad to hear the news and rejoice with you! There is nothing like the peace that comes through reconciliation in Christ. Praise God.

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