How long – Openness and Vulnerability!
When we feel abandoned by God, we tend to question how long are we going to feel like this? We should then share our feelings, both with God and with other trustworthy Christians.
The Inward Struggle—His Feelings
How long, Adonai?
Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I keep asking myself what to do,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long must my enemy dominate me?
Psalm 13:1-3 (CJB)
(Adonai means literally, “my Lord”, a word the Hebrew Bible uses to refer to God.)
God had promised David the throne of Israel, yet that day of coronation seemed further and further away. Saul was doing evil things, and God wasn’t judging him, and yet David was doing good things and felt abandoned by the Lord. David was certainly disturbed by what the enemy was doing, but he was more concerned about what the Lord was not doing.
“How long?” is a familiar question in Scripture and is a perfectly good question to ask if your heart is right with God?
The saints in heaven even ask it (Rev. 6:10). When we’re in trouble and pray for help, but none comes, we tend to feel deserted. David felt that God was ignoring him and that this alienation was final and complete.
He also felt that God was hiding His face from him instead of smiling upon him (see 30:7; 44:24; Lam. 5:20). To behold God’s face by faith and see His glory was always an encouragement to David (11:7; 17:15; 27:4, 8; 31:16; 34:5; 67:1), but now he felt abandoned.
Feeling like he was left to himself, David tried to devise various ways to overcome the enemy (“wrestle with my thoughts,” niv), but nothing seemed to satisfy him.
But faith is living without scheming; it means not leaning on our own experiences and skills and trying to plot our own schedule (Prov. 3:5-6). There were storm clouds in the sky, hiding the sun, but the sun was still shining. It’s a dangerous thing to give in to our feelings, because feelings are deceptive and undependable (Jer. 17:9).
When Jacob heard the news about Simeon being left hostage in Egypt, he gave up and announced that everything was against him (Gen. 42:36) when actually God was causing everything to work for him.
We must not deny our feelings and pretend that everything is going well, and there is no sin in asking, “How long?” But at the same time, we must realize how deceptive our feelings are and that God is greater than our hearts (1 John 3:20) and can lift us above the emotional storms of life.
Sometimes all we need to do is talk over a problem with a friend to help put it in perspective. In this psalm, the phrase “how long” occurs four times in the first two verses, indicating the depth of David’s distress. David expressed his feelings to God and found strength.
David eventually learned to replace the question “How long, O Lord?” with the affirmation, “My times are in your hands” (31:15). This is a lesson that all believers must learn.
By the end of his prayer, he was able to profess hope and trust in God. Through prayer we can express our feelings and talk our problems out with God. He helps us regain the right perspective, and this gives us peace (Hab. 3:17-19).
The Outward Danger—His Foes
Look, and answer me, Adonai my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death.
Then my enemy would say, “I was able to beat him”;
and my adversaries would rejoice at my downfall.
Psalm 13:4-5 (CJB)
It’s good to have peace within you, but you also need protection around you. That’s why David prayed to the Lord and made three requests.
- The first was, “Look on me,” a plea for the Lord to fix His eyes on His servant and scrutinize him. David felt that God had hidden His face and he wanted Him to turn His face toward him again.
- His second request was that the Lord answers Him and sends some kind of encouragement. David felt he had been deserted and that his prayers were accomplishing nothing.
- “Give light to my eyes” was the third prayer. This involved not only spiritual enlightenment (19:8) but also physical and emotional vitality and strength (Ezra 9:8; 1 Sam. 14:24-30). When the mind and body are weary, how easy it is to be discouraged! Perhaps David was even ill and in danger of death.
If he died, what would happen to the throne of Israel?
As much as David was concerned about his own needs, he was concerned even more with the glory of God. After all, God had chosen David and had commanded Samuel to anoint him king, and if David failed, God’s name would be ridiculed. Without God’s help, David knew there was no hope.
The Upward Look—His Faith
But I trust in your grace,
my heart rejoices as you bring me to safety.
I will sing to Adonai, because he gives me
even more than I need.
Psalm 13:6 (CJB)
The little word “but” indicates a transition from fear to faith and from questioning to claiming God’s promises. David was faithful to God and trusted wholeheartedly in him, but he felt the pressure of his problems as much as anyone.
But instead of giving up or giving in, David held on to his faith. In times of despair, it is much harder to hold on than to give up. But if you give up on God, you give in to a life of despair.
David’s feelings had been on a roller coaster, but God was still on the throne, and His character had not changed. God’s mercy (steadfast love) was all that David needed for it would never fail (see 25:6; Isa. 63:9; Lam. 3:22-23).
God’s people don’t live on explanations; they live on promises, and those promises are as unchanging as the character of God. “It shall be done to you according to your faith.” (Matt. 9:29).
Openness And Vulnerability
Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Worshipful
NLT Chronological Life Application Study Bible