"How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? 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?-Psalm 13:1-2
Patience is a virtue that is hard to come by, molded by the hand of tribulation, for 'tribulation worketh patience'. It is most commonly found with the hoary head. Parents might identify with "how long" on some long trip in the car. Before we get out of town we hear from the back seat, "How much longer daddy?" and we know that tribulation and patience are making their mark upon young and old. How long is the class, how long is the book, how long is the work day, how long is the wait in the doctors office, how long before vacation, how long before supper, how long is the sermon, how long before payday, how long till this job is over, how long till this day is over, this month, this year, this semester, how long till retirement, how long till this feeling is past, this trouble, this heartache…..? This desire to be exactly where we want to be in life, and doing exactly what we want to be doing, and feeling exactly how we want to feel, and with the people and places we want to be doing it all with is a mark of impatience, the feeling we are wasting our lives, precious time that, we think, could be better spent. It is from this attitude that the psalmist, David, writes what is usually referred to as the "HOW LONG" psalm as he seeks the Lord's face for his petitions to be answered…….right now.
He begins his petition with an assumption, a confused feeling that we all experience in our tribulations, "How long wilt thou forget me?" And then he gives the Lord the answer, "Forever". That is why we love David so much, his prayers are ours. Many times, his words express what we feel in our own hearts. And in our tribulation, we all feel to be forgotten by our Lord, He is wasting our time by not answering us immediately and we suffer needlessly. Yet, if we will stop and allow our thoughts to ascend to the right hand of the Father, we will find a great King and Lord that watches over His own every moment, every day. Even David, when thinking aright, wrote in the 139th Psalm that His Lord knew when he sat down, when he got up, what he was thinking, what he was about to say and that his Lord was present with him ever moment. "He that keepeth thee does not slumber" and He is not afflicted with alzheimers, He does not forget anything, especially the His beloved, the sheep of His pasture.
Knowing the character of our Lord, there is much we might consider in our unanswered petitions. It may be that Lord is saying the same thing, "How long before you cease from man whose breath is in his nostrils, how long before you quit trusting in horses in chariots that can not deliver, how long before you turn from your idols, how long before you give up your sin, how long before you get back in Church, read my word and call upon me in prosperity?" and we find the truth of the matter: He has not forgotten us, we have forgotten Him. Surely, David's "How long" questions should cause deep meditations of our own conscience. Perhaps our unanswered petition is one of love, to draw us closer, to humble us. Perhaps we ask for something amiss, unreasonable and our thinking is not right in our petition and it is not His will at all. Perhaps, we want our life to be like we want it and not what He has chosen for us. Perhaps it is to teach us patience, the answer will be in His own time and in His own way. Perhaps, we have jumped in the pit of our own making and we must live out what we did not ask the Lord about in the beginning. Many reasons may be found for "how long" and it does not mean that the Lord has forgotten us. Let Satan not put these words in our mind or our mouths. But let us try to do this regardless of our unanswered petitions: While we are anxious for the answer, for the arrival, for the climatic event to unfold, let us not miss out on some precious moments for fellowship with the Lord and the opportunity to grow in grace and say with the patience of Job, "Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?"-Job 12:9.