“How long, O Lord?” How often have you cried these words in times of suffering? It is a universal plea. Time slows to a crawl in times of suffering, and the answer to the question “how long” is always too long.
This suffering is all-encompassing. There is suffering in the soul of the psalmist. There is suffering in the perceived absence of God. There is suffering at the hands of enemies. This person is being attacked from all sides. No wonder there is a desperate plea for relief!
But the psalm ends the way suffering must also end – with the presence and intervention of a loving God. The psalmist trusts in God, rejoices in the inevitable salvation from suffering, and sings praise for God’s goodness. All of these are hard to do when one is at rock bottom. I wonder whether the psalmist praised because the suffering ended or if the suffering ended because the psalmist praised.
When my first baby was 16 months old, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. For a year we went to doctors, learned all we could, struggled through blood tests and shots, high and low blood sugars, and new diets. Then he got very sick and spent several days in the hospital. The night he came home from the hospital, I put him to bed, and then I sat on my bed screaming and crying and cursing at God. My fit went on for a long while until I was completely spent. Finally, in the silence of a broken spirit I heard a voice, quiet but powerful. It said, “Trust me.” Chills ran through me as I recognized the voice of God. It said, “Trust in me. You have placed all your trust in the medical system. Learn from them, but trust in me.”
From that moment I was never the same. All the anxiety and angst of the first tenuous year was gone. I knew that we were going to be ok. In that quiet room I began an upward climb, a tangle of my trust and God’s salvation, intertwined and feeding off one another. Sometimes all it takes to begin the ending of suffering is a single, quiet moment of faith.
Narrative Lectionary Text: Psalm 13
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.