How Long, O LORD?
1, How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?
2, How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3, Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
5, But I have trusted in Your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
6, I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.
This psalm formulates a staircase pattern indicative in the psalms, starting at a lower point leading up to a bigger point. In this case, David is in despair, but the Lord is gracious in his despair. Four times David says, “How long?” Each “how long” is in relation to God, to himself, and to his enemies. This despair David is experiencing is something we all can relate to. Think of times in your own life when you’ve said, “God, how long will You forget about me?” Or, “How long will I continue to feel this way?” Or, “How long will my enemies continue to press against me?”
David feels as if God has forgotten about him. Have you ever felt like God has forgotten about you? I know I have. Sometimes we suffer experiences of feeling God is indifferent towards our suffering and that He has forgotten us. Nothing could be further from the truth, which we will see at the end of the psalm. There’s nothing inherently wrong with feeling this way. We’re sinners, so we’re bound to distrust God and misunderstand who He really is. What’s wrong is when we live in this perpetual condition of distrusting God. That’s not the relationship God has intended to have with us.
As Christians, Jesus has restored our relationship to God—this is called reconciliation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).
Through Christ all people can be reconciled to God. The relationship we lost at the Fall is restored in Christ on the cross. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10). Our relationship to God being restored, God’s intention is for us to live in this right, trusting relationship with Him. It is not His intention we distrust Him.
Here, David is desperate to be heard by God. “Light up my eyes” tells us David is afraid to go to sleep. It’s likely he wrote this when Saul was pursuing his life for several years. In this psalm, David was so afraid for his life that he was afraid to sleep. In verse four, David was so certain that if he died, people would see his death as God’s judgement on him. David feared for his life because he was surrounded by his enemies—likely Saul’s army. Even though I was in the military, I was fortunate enough to have never feared for my life. Yet I, and I’m sure many of you can relate, have felt as if everything was against me.
I suffered with depression for most of my teenage years. I was clinically depressed throughout all of middle school and most of high school until I was seventeen. For those who suffer clinical depression, they all experience it differently. For me, I felt as if everything—even God Himself—was conspiring against me. I hated God. I was convinced He was this cunning Being who liked to toy with certain people and make them suffer. Maybe you’ve felt the same once, or maybe you’re feeling it now, but in the last two verses we find out something completely different.
David suddenly realizes his situation depends not on his enemies or himself, but God. On this psalm, Derek Kidner writes David “turns his attention not to the quality of his faith but to its object and its outcome” (Kidner, 95). When you’ve talked to a fellow Christian about problems you’re having, have they ever told you, “Just have more faith”? This is terrible advice! The quality of faith is not what matters. Let’s examine Luke 17:1-6:
And [Jesus] said to His disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in a day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”