Recently I received an email from a sister in Messiah who has walked with me for years. She felt led to bring me a word of correction. Whenever I receive a word like this from someone I deeply trust, I pay close attention to it and pray through it. God says that those he loves He chastens! This sister pointed out to me that a number of my more recent blogs seemed to echo a "How long, O Lord?" lament. After she pointed this out to me, I noticed that little phrase creeping into my thoughts as I went through long days of caregiving. "How long, O Lord?"
Yesterday God brought me a second witness on this, and this time the word came with the power of Scripture, delivered by Pastor Tim Delina of Times Square Church. He used a Psalm of David to illustrate how it is possible to change that cry of "How long O Lord?" to a solid and joyful expression of trust and joy in the Lord.
If you have read many of the psalms you know that David spent a long period of time being persecuted and chased by Saul, the king of Israel. Like a hunted animal he hid in caves and stayed on the run, in what must have been a time of desperation and fear. Psalm 13 is one of those examples where David is desperately questioning God about all this - and then somehow finds a way to turn all his anguish into a song of praise!
1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 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?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
So what happened between verses 1-4 and verses 5-6? What changed David's heart from wrestling and questioning God to trusting and rejoicing? How could he sing when he was feeling so sorrowful and anxious? Pastor Delina showed me the answer. I share it with you because I know I'm not the only one who has been uttering this lament, asking God how long. I think I have known somewhere deep inside that there is a reason God never answers this question. He remains silent. He never tells us "how long" - because we are asking the wrong question! The right question, or you might say the right request we should offer up to God is "Look on me and answer and GIVE LIGHT TO MY EYES." As Pastor Delino explained, this phrase translated as "give light to my eyes" really means "help me to understand why I'm going through this...help me to see it differently."
WOW! What a breakthrough that was for me! The "how long" is not the question. God will take however long is needed for me to learn something through this trial, to grow in Messiah and become more like Him. We don't need to know how long it's going to take! We only need to know how to see what God wants to do through it. What is He teaching me? How is He changing me?
As I embrace this understanding, I find myself focusing on those questions, instead of on my personal grief and frustration, and then the answers flow! I'm learning to trust in your unfailing love! I'm learning patience! I'm learning to focus on how good You have been to me, Lord! Suddenly I'm REJOICING in my salvation, in my intimacy with Yeshua. What a blessing that I can pour out my heart and my sadness to Him and He will listen - and He will care - and He will answer by showing me what must change in ME. And then...all glory to God!....I start singing songs of praise! Pastor Delina said "we go from pouting to shouting!" Isn't that good?
The next time I find myself starting to cry out, "How long, O Lord?" I really believe I will know how to change that cry to "Give light to my eyes, O Lord!" Give me understanding, show me what I can learn. That is a cry He will delight to answer. And it might just end up as a song of praise!
Kelly Ferrari Mills