How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:1-2
If you have ever gone through a very long, dark night of trial and bewildering hard times, you may have felt forgotten; you may have cried out with David, “How long?” Actually, the Psalms record multiple times this question was asked of God. Other people in the Bible too, like Jeremiah (4:21) and Habakkuk.
How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Habakkuk 1:2
Even Our Lord himself expressed this sentiment, though I don’t blame him. I am sure that dealing with someone like me for even three and half years would seem like an excruciating eternity.
“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” Mark 9:19
But sometimes our hard times do stretch out for very long times, even into decades, and we cry out with David, My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long? (Psalm 6: 3). Yet, even then, there is a hope we can’t seem to shake.
“There are times when in our despair we cry, ‘God hath forgotten me.’ yet somehow the conviction rises, ‘No, I am not forgotten forever.’ The soul is in that condition which Luther knew so well. — hope itself despairs, and despair nevertheless begins to hope. In our dejection we think there is no hope, yet we feel in our souls that God cannot forget, and so we begin to question Him, ‘How long shall it seem as though Thou forgettest us forever?’” — McConnell, Moody, and Fitt (emphasis mine)1
Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? Psalm 42:9
“Hope itself despairs and despair nevertheless begins to hope.” Hope, it seems, is hardwired into our souls. Zechariah called us “prisoners of hope.” Hope, no matter how hard we try to get rid of it, is tenacious. It pops back up, poking through the hardened covering of our hearts or, at least, humming relentlessly beneath it. Sometimes hope feels like an invasive species that though it is poisoned, chopped down, and yanked up, just keeps coming back. Its roots run deep and are pervasive. Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12), yet hope does not shame us.
And hope does not put us to shame (disgrace, shame down, shame of one repulsed, shame of hope deceived) because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5-6
I think it depends on what and who you are hoping for and in. Because, real hope, the hope that is hardwired into us, is hope in God. Hope that He is always doing something, even when we can’t see it. That is where hope and faith in what we do not see are intertwined. After Habakkuk complains to God in the above verse that God is not listening, not helping, not saving, how does God answer?
The LORD replied, “Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it. Habakkuk 1:5 (NLT)
… Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” John 5:17
So, in the end, the pain of “how long” can be endured through His grace and love if I remember that God has not forgotten me and will not put me to shame. He will not repulse me or deceive me. His promises are faithful and true. He is doing something amazing right now that I cannot see, but will see someday.
I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 (Amplified Bible)
My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:10-11
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Isaiah 49:15
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Luke 12:6-7
Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. Zechariah 9:12
1Alexander McConnell, William Revell Moody, Arthur Percy Fitt, Record of Christian Work, Volume 39, 1920
Image in the Public Domain, Dead Sparrow by Marc Franz, 1905
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