How Long, O LORD?

“How long wilt Thou forget me, O LORD? forever?” Have you ever asked this question? Most of us have said these words in one form or another given the various challenges we may find ourselves in.

So, where do you find yourself today? In what challenging situation of life are you confronted with as you set down to read these words? Do you feel as though you have been dealt an unfair hand with the struggles of life continuing to go on and on and on and on…? Is hopelessness and despair knocking at your door so frequently that you are on the verge of giving up in defeat? Maybe you have already quit—maybe you have resigned yourself to the thought that this is your lot in life that will never change. I know…I’m often there as well. As of late, my health has been a trial for me that is challenging me in areas that I didn’t think I needed help in. It has been weighing upon me in a way that I didn’t realize or maybe didn’t care to admit. But here I am—coming to grips with my weaknesses and frailties. I’m coming to grip with the reality that I am a man often in need of hope and encouragement.

If you are like me, something is happening where you feel beaten down with the cares of your life? It could be your health or mounting bills due to lack of finances. It could be family struggles—marital difficulties and challenges with your children. Or maybe other relationships are suffering and adding another set of stressors to your already stress-filled life.

Whatever it is, the answer is near. Wherever you find yourself today, know that there is comfort. Although I am in the midst of this battle I have found comfort in the words of my Savior when He says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

The word “labour” speaks of one who is beaten down, fatigued and worn out. One who is “heavy laden” speaks of one who is overburdened with the cares and struggles of this life being “stressed out.” These are the ones to whom Christ is speaking. Notice the promise that He gives, …and I will give you rest. …and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” So let’s go to Him and see His remedy for our struggles—the “rest” for our weary souls. Let’s approach God’s Word with an openness to see the stabilizing truths of His Word and see where they speak to the pain of life—where they speak to life’s difficulties that beat us up, burden us down and bring us to a place where we question everything we thought was true.

Keep in mind that there is ALWAYS help from God’s Word!

It is always fascinating to me, as I approach God’s Word, where I find myself in a passage that is timely and filled with the healing balm of God’s stabilizing truths. I am blessed to know a God who loves me with an unending love; a love that is never distant or faint; a love that is satisfying and real; a love that is genuine and always what I need. I may not always feel these truths about His love, but as I step back and think—as I move from feeling to thinking—I can always find God’s love to be more than enough…ALWAYS!!

Psalm 13 is medicine for the despairing soul—the soul that is on the verge of giving up; the soul that is facing defeat—at the point of hopelessness, wondering, “Is it really worth trying; is it really worth the effort to take the next step?”

In this psalm, David says what I have been thinking, feeling, battling. He articulates the emotional struggle of a trial that seem like it will never end; a trial that often in my eyes has gone on long enough; a trial that at times can seem to be without purpose. BUT has it gone on long enough? It still continues! Is it without purpose? Although it may feel like it, I realize that there is always purpose especially as I look back and see that God is growing me through this. The challenge that I am confronted with is my need to think based upon what God says instead of how I feel.

David’s Plea—Consider David’s questions in the form of a plea to God.

“How long wilt Thou forget me, O LORD? forever? how long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?” (v. 1-2)

He is struggling with feeling alone as if God is distant, having forgotten about him. He starts out by pleading to the Lord as he pours out his heart.  His feelings seem to be the driving force as he cries out to the Lord, “Where are you?” and “When will this end?”

In verse 2 David speaks of taking counsel in [his] soul, having sorrow in [his] heart daily. Literally he is speaking about his thoughts that are a source of constant oppression. It is a daily struggle with no intermission—no reprieve as this trial continues without any hope of conclusion. This is a state of hopelessness which stems from both internal and external oppression. The internal oppression is rooted in how he thinks based upon how he feels. The external oppression comes in the form of persecution from his enemies.  For us the external oppression can be persecution, but more often it is something physical, financial or even social.

Often the saint comes to the point of despair as he begins to lose hope. His feelings betray him as he feels that the Lord has left him.  As the trial continues with no end in sight his soul wearies and his faith can seemingly begin to wane.

David’s Prayer—Next, in verses 3 and 4 we see David’s prayer to God.

“Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.” (v. 3-4)

In the first two verses we see David’s thoughts are being driven by emotion and feeling. Now in this prayer we can see David’s perspective changing. As a humble man, he is acknowledging his own need—his weakness. In these words, he cries out to the Lord, praying, “consider and hear me!”  He is saying, “Pay attention to me and respond to my prayer.” But notice what he asks next. He says, Lord, lighten my eyes.” With this request he seems to be saying, “Lord, shed light upon this next step upon this path that You have set before me.”  He is asking for the Lord to help him see with spiritual eyes what God is purposing through this trial. Notice that He doesn’t ask God to take away the pain and suffering but instead he prays for spiritual sight in the suffering. His prayer is for help to look at his own situation from God’s perspective.

In verse 4 his prayer continues with purpose. He speaks to God about what he fears will happen if God does not help him. He says, Lest mine enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him;’ and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved. His concern is his testimony. If he succumbs to defeat—if he gives up in hopeless despair—his Godly testimony will be marred. His Godly influence will cease. I believe that his concern is that God will not be glorified through him.

In the first two verses we see David’s thoughts driven by his feelings. Starting in verse 3 we see a change in perspective. His thoughts begin to be guided by truth. With each additional verse his mind becomes more and more engaged in God’s stabilizing truths.

David’s Praise—In the final two verses we see David’s praise.

“But I have trusted in Thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation. I will sing unto the LORD, because He hath dealt bountifully with me.” (v. 5-6)

In these last two verses we see three key points of David’s praise. David turns his mindset to truth.  He fixes his mind upon God through the truth of His Word and the peace of God begins to transcend his circumstances, just as God’s Word says.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed [fixed] on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength [the rock of ages]:” (Isaiah 26:3-4)

He goes from feeling to faith—from how his heart feels to what his heart knows.  He looks back to a point of trustI have trusted in Thy mercy. David knew his God. He knew that He was a God of mercy and that He was the source of his salvation. In the beginning of this Psalm David is feeling as if God is not there; as if God has left. Now his mind rests upon the truth of God instead of his feelings being dictated by his circumstances. He begins to think upon the stabilizing truths of God which dictate his praise to God in his time of suffering.

He then looks forward to a promise of truthMy heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.” He looks forward with the eye of faith—with anticipation that God will rescue him. His mindset has changed from a perspective of hopelessness to one of patient hope and confidence. In another psalm David writes, “I will love Thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:1-2). Notice in these words of triumph how David describes his great God. With each description he makes it personal; He is my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my buckler, my salvation, and my high tower.” These are stabilizing truths to David as he focuses on each one as God’s benevolence toward him. This is who God was to David.

As a result of his meditating upon the sufficiency of his great God, notice his commitment to praise. “I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies” (Psalm 18:3).

Finally he looks beyond to his praise of triumphI will sing unto the LORD.” As David relies upon what he knows to be true about God, the result is worship.  Through the trial, that David had gone through, he felt as if God was distant, but his knowledge of God brings him to see the reality that God cannot be any closer for HE is intimately close to David and through this trial David sees that HE is ever closer.

In closing, consider David’s words in Psalm 40. He says, “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies” (Psalm 40:1-4).

Throughout Psalm 13 we have seen David move from the pit of “miry clay” to the “Rock” of truth. His mind finds rest in the stabilizing truths of God. In tragedy he triumphs, not because his circumstances have changed but because his mindset has changed. His feelings have been replaced with facts and his trembling has been replaced with truth. Herein lies the victory.

Although the storm still rages all around him, the storm has ceased within him. Through a right perspective he has found the peace of God that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Though his storm still rages his heart is resting—resting upon the stabilizing truths of God—resting in His precious promises.

Whatever storm you find yourself in, always know that God is there with you. When you take your eyes off the storm you will see your loving Savior walking with you and often carrying you. Trust Him for He is the Master of the storm. He is the God [who] is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Let us learn to be still, and know that [He is] God” (Psalm 46:10)—the Almighty God.

God’s Model for Success

On the path of life our walk is often be filled with unforeseen challenges.  What lies ahead? How will you deal with the challenges that you will be facing? The answer is in your mindset as you approach these challenges.  How you take each step that leads to these unknowns will determine how you will handle those challenges.

In the story of Joshua we are given God’s model for success in this life. The precious truth about our God is that He does not leave us to walk alone and feel blindly through this life. He leads us by the hand with His Word, and often carries us through the roughest waves of the storm. Through His Word He gives us confidence to take the next step of life.

Consider Joshua as he is ordained by God to be the leader following the beloved Moses.  The task that lays before him was a monumental one.  How could he lead this people who for the past 40 years had been wandering in the dessert because of unbelief?  Aside from unbelief, these people could be defined as murmurers and complainers.  This was an incredibly large and difficult group to lead into a land they had yet to call their own which was filled with many unknowns.  How could Joshua take on this task and be successful?

In the first chapter we find God speaking with Joshua.  God tells him some things to remember as well as specific ways to respond. In this passage we see God’s promises as bookends surrounding His commands.—Remember & Respond!!

Remember GOD’S promise—“Know this!”  Here we begin by seeing what we are to remember. Consider this promise, in verse 5, as a stabilizing truth. God says to Joshua, “…as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” God’s promise to Joshua is that He will ALWAYS be with him each step of the way. Joshua will NOT have to face any challenges alone. The same is true for us, Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

This promise sets up what follows. In order to be successful in our response we must remember what God says. Remember that success in our Christian lives is based upon our obedience to God and His Word.

Respond to GOD’S Commands—“Do this!”  Here we see what we are to respond to.

Consider the 1st command: Be confident because of God’s Wordbe thou strong (v. 7). God is telling Joshua to “be strong”—be confident because of God’s Words of promise. Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light [symbol of guidance] unto my path [way of life]”   (Psalm 119:105). God’s Word is given to provide light so as to be able to walk through this life successfully. His Word is the key to our faithfulness and usefulness. “…He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3b). Be confident that the way our Shepherd leads us is the righteous way and the best way.  He puts His name on it. “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6). Be confident that He will complete the work that He starts in us.

Consider the 2nd command: Be fearless because of God’s Wordbe thou very courageous (v. 7). Joshua’s courage was to be in God—he could be fearless through the unknowns before him because of what God had said to him—I will be with thee.” Remember God’s Word and respond without fear. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).

Consider the 3rd command: Be obedient to the Wordobserve to do according to all the Law (v. 7). Joshua’s ability to obey was directly related to his confidence in the truth. God commanded Joshua to “observe” or take special care to obey ALL the commandments. Take special care that you show, by your actions, that you hold the commandments of God in high esteem for they are invaluable. When we remember that God has our best interests in mind it will change how we respond to His commandments. Our best is ultimately God’s glory.

Just as God commands Joshua, He also commands us to be obedient to everything in His Word. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  For if any be a hearer of the Word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.   But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (James 1:22-25) Observing to do,” what God says results in blessing—hearing and NOT doing results in self deception.

Consider the 4th command: Be guided by the Wordturn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest (v. 7). This is a call to submission. When we are confident in Who God is—that He is sovereign and in full authority; when we are fully persuaded about His character and His desire for us is what is best for us—then our submission to Him will not be so difficult. We will then respond by being guided by Him through His Word.  The result is “prosperous” or wise living.

Consider the 5th command: Be vocal about the Wordthis book of the Law shall not depart out of thy mouth (v. 8). God commands Joshua that His Word should always be present in Joshua’s conversation.  He should always be speaking about God and His Word. When you are confident in Who God is and what He has done for you this shouldn’t be very difficult. When you remember the “mercies of God” (Romans 12:1) you will be vocal in response about the greatness of your God.

Consider the 6th command: Be daily in the Wordthou shalt meditate therein day and night (v. 8). God wants Joshua to daily meditate upon  His Word. To meditate is the same process as worrying where you are constantly looking at something from every possible angle. The difference is the content of what you are focusing on. Meditating upon God’s Word is a great help as it brings peace and quietness where worrying about our circumstances bring only noise and unrest into our lives. The Bible further tells us, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly [abundantly] in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)

Remember GOD’S promise—“Know this!” Here again we see what we are to remember. This is the other bookend surrounding God’s commands.

Consider the next promise: Know success as promised in the Wordthen thou shalt have good success (v. 8). This is clearly NOT the definition of worldly success. We can chase the world’s success but as Solomon says it’s like “chasing the wind” (Ecclesiastes 5:16) as it is a sure waste of time. The God who cannot lie” (Titus 1:2) promises  that handling His Word His way leads to success—remember and respond!

Consider this final promise: Know encouragement from the Wordfor the LORD thy God is with thee (v. 9). Notice that the Lord ends with the promise He began with—“I will be with you!

Look at WHO is commanding Joshua.  As God speaks to him He is saying “remember WHO AM I?  What have I done?  AM I worthy to be obeyed?  Do My words ring hollow because My past has been contrary to what I AM commanding you now?  AM I not the great I AM? AM I not the One who parted the Red Sea?  AM I not the One who gave you water to drink from a rock in the desert? Have I ever done anything to prove to you that I am unfaithful or that I cannot be trusted?” Consider these words as questions to you.

The most important questions to ask are “Who are you Lord?” and “What do you want me to do?” And so to each of us I say, “REMEMBER and RESPOND! Remember WHO your God is and what He has done for you.” In turn “respond with fearless obedience being confident in HIM, knowing that what God promises, HE is sure to bring it to pass.”