“How Long, O Lord?”
“How long will my enemy triumph over me?“
Psalm 13:2b (NIV)
When I reached my 30s, I remember praying “How long, Lord?” as I filled out yet another change of address form.
During several years of job and life transitions, I’d filled out my share of these. I needed to have a list of my previous addresses nearby just to remember them all, and it drove me insane when the gas station pumps began requiring zip codes to make a transaction. My biological family had painfully broken apart years ago, and now everywhere I turned, I was reminded I had no place to call home.
Why, God, am I still living out of a suitcase? How long is this going to be my life?
These were honest prayers, raw prayers, and I had to go on a journey with God to learn it was OK to pray them at all.
For much of my life, I thought to question God was to doubt Him. I had learned to trust in His sovereignty, and desired God’s will for my life over my own. But somewhere along the path of obedience, my questioning ceased, and so did my laments.
Lament is a passionate expression of grief where God meets us in our time of sorrow.
Lamenting prayers are prayers where we express our honest emotions before God. God wants to hear us, even on our bad days, and He is always open to our honest prayers.
One example of a lament found in Scripture is when the Psalmist cries out to God, asking: How long?
“How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1, NIV)
Have you ever lamented how long to God? How long must you be in angst? How long before you see your children come to the Lord? How long must you stay in a job that doesn’t satisfy you?
David’s how long lament shows we will sometimes feel forgotten, and even forsaken by God.
Notice that this lament isn’t silenced by a happy-go-lucky song in church, or dismissed by an uncomprehending friend. David’s lament is taken directly to God in the form of prayer. In Scripture God permits us to lament, and as we cry out to him in lament, He answers.
The Psalmist continued, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:2a)
God gives us permission to present our honest questions before Him. He knows we will have anxious thoughts and troubling circumstances. It is what we do in these lamenting times that matter.
Unfortunately, I am guilty of often gossiping about God instead of taking my honest laments before Him in prayer. As a child of God, we can take our questions directly to God, even while our hearts are still filled with pain.
Why is she getting married, and I am still single?
Why is her life blessed, and I am still struggling?
Why is my sorrow unending, with no change in sight?
What are your how long prayers right now? Do you have permission to express them in the context of a Christian community, and have you given yourself permission to lament them directly to God?
We are all blessed with good things in life, and many of us are simultaneously struggling. As God’s people, we can experience multiple emotions at once. In a later Psalm, David laments as a form of confession, while at the same time asking God’s help to give Him praise.
“Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.” (Psalm 51:15, NIV)
There is no “fake it ‘til you make it” in Scripture. Lamenting gives our honest cries to God and gives Him the opportunity to comfort us when everything is not fine. Being “fine” is never to be our goal with God, however, intimacy and transparency are.
As we take our laments directly to God, He will meet us right where we are … not where we pretend to be. Keeping our laments inside will cause us to shut down, displace emotions, isolate ourselves or stop praying altogether. What a generous God who has invited us to lament “how long” and modeled this language to us directly.
Heavenly Father, help me let out my laments to You. As I cry out, “How long?” meet me right where I am, and transform my laments into praise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Habakkuk 1:2, “How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?” (NIV)
Revelation 6:10, “They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’” (NIV)