Yet still I thought of that question when I was working on Psalm 13. “How long?” David asks, not once, but four times in the first two verses. It was just as common then as it is now. Habakkuk’s psalm begins, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help and you will not hear?” Hab 1:2. The martyrs pictured around the throne of God cry out, “O Sovereign Lord...how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Rev. 6:9,10. “How long” is indeed a common complaint in the scriptures—I found it listed 52 times!
And the point is this, these people are undergoing not just trials, but long, drawn out trials. “Time flies when you’re having fun,” we often say, and that means it crawls when you aren’t.
“It is not under the sharpest, but the longest trials that we are most in danger of fainting,” Andrew Fuller, in Spurgeon’s Treasury of David. It is so true. Just last week I nearly lost it over something small and inconsequential.
Being married to a deaf man can be extremely frustrating. Three times in one hour Keith and I had a misunderstanding based totally on the fact that he could not hear what I was saying. If he could have heard just three words, none of it would have even mattered, but because he couldn’t, it made the situation more and more complex, and more and more exasperating as it went on. And the reason I couldn’t handle it that morning? Not because it was three times in one hour, but because we have been dealing with it for forty years now.
But who am I to complain? The woman in Luke 8 had her issue of blood for 12 years. The woman who had the spirit of infirmity in Luke 13 had been suffering for 18 years. The man who lay at the pool of Bethesda (John 5) had done so for 38 years. The blind beggar in John 9 had been that way from birth. Sarah had waited for a child for decades. The people of God waited for a Messiah for several thousand years! These people had far more reason than I to ask God, “How long?”
All of us are prone to ask, “Are we there yet?” and sometimes the answer does not come in this lifetime. That may be the most difficult thing to deal with. Some are born into suffering and never get out of it. Some, due to random accident or maybe even their own bad choices, suffer for the remaining years of their lives and never see a reason. God has His plans and we are not always privy to them.
But one day we will receive the answer we want to hear: “How long? Now! We are there!” The waiting will be over, no more suffering of any sort, even the petty little annoyances that no one else can understand, that drive you up a wall on a bad day, that fill you with guilt when your mind clears and you finally recognize just how blessed you truly are.
Some day we will arrive, and we won’t be going on any more long difficult journeys ever again.
It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8.