How Long, Oh Lord?

The question, “How long, O Lord?” has been asked by saints for millennia. It is littered throughout the psalter (6, 13, 35, 79, 80, 89, 90, 94) from the pens of David, Asaph, and Moses. There are the wrestlings of Asaph in Psalms 73 and 77. Then, there is Psalm 88, which begins and ends in darkness—while acknowledging the Lord is the God of our salvation. God’s people have repeatedly cried out to him, “Lord, how long will it be like this?” If you are having those same thoughts in these days, be comforted that you are not alone. You stand in a long line of saints who have gone before. John Calvin wrote:

“…when we are for a long time weighed down by calamities, and when we do not perceive any sign of divine aid, this thought unavoidably forces itself upon us, that God has forgotten us. To acknowledge in the midst of our afflictions that God cares about us, is not the usual way with men, or what the feelings of nature would prompt…” (from his commentary on Psalm 13).

There is Ecclesiastes. Solomon writes very honestly about life under the sun. This Genesis 3 world is no joke. We are fallen, and the creation has been cursed. Things do not work the way God made them to work—or the way he originally intended. God has subjected the creation to futility. We live in a world where we bury our spouses, our parents, and even our children. Only an insane person would look around and say things are as they should be. Sin and death have done this to us. And God has let it be. It’s appropriate to call Solomon, the preacher in Ecclesiastes, a pessimist. But he is a pessimist who believes that God and truth remain. All of this takes place under the wise and holy providence of God. And he has promised to deliver us from this bondage. He has promised to deliver the creation too. The sons and daughters of God will be revealed, and our bodies will be resurrected. The creation is groaning for that day. And we are too. (Paul writes of this in Romans 8. More on that in a minute.)

There is Job. Many of us are familiar with the first two chapters—and the last five (38-42). There are thirty-five chapters between chapter two and thirty-eight. Most of those chapters are filled with wrestling. With struggling. With Job trying to process his pain and loss in light of God. The book ends with God essentially saying, “Child, be quiet. There are so many things you don’t understand.” Job is humbled. God repents him. And God restores him. We know that in all of it, Job is not outside of God’s favor. He isn’t outside of God’s love. Far from it. So too with us. In this life, we will have our hearts broken. We will lose things that are dear to us. We will grieve, and wrestle, and struggle to understand. All the while, God loves and keep us.

There is Lamentations. The book is appropriately titled. Jeremiah (the author) is known as the weeping prophet because he writes a lot about the anguish of God’s people under Babylonian captivity. As one of God’s people, he grieves. He pours out his heart and his tears by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Lamentations contain some remarkable stuff. For two-and-a-half chapters, Jeremiah describes the ruin and devastation that has occurred in Jerusalem. He cries out to God about it. He pleads with him about it. He writes poignantly of his own affliction and the bitterness he has endured. And, in the midst of that, he pens these words:

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:21-26).

In the context, the words are almost shocking. At least, they would be, if the Bible were not full of stuff like this. The suffering of this life is placed right next to the faithfulness and steadfast love of God all throughout Scripture. And how all of that hangs together—in all of its detail—we do not fully understand. Life is hard, and our God is a God of steadfast love.

There is Romans 8. Consider especially verses 18-23. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). When Paul says the sufferings of the present time aren’t worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us, that is a statement about the greatness of the glory, not the lightness of the suffering. Suffering can be—and often is—terrible in this life. Paul’s point is that the glory that’s coming is that incredible. It’s like when he writes about this “light momentary affliction” (2 Corinthians 4:17). He says it is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. It’s not that the trials are easy. Often, they are anything but light and momentary. His point is that the glory that’s coming is beyond our comprehension.

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in the hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:19-23).

Futility characterizes the world and life under the sun. Bondage to corruption is the state of things. Loved ones die. Things fall apart. We fight against our sin. We struggle and doubt. But deliverance is coming. More specifically, resurrection is coming. And we long for it. Eternity is written in our hearts, brothers and sisters. It is precisely the promise of resurrection to live with God forever—through Jesus Christ—that is our hope in the midst of suffering.

The good news about this promise of resurrection is that it’s rock solid. The rest of Romans 8 bears that out. The Spirit intercedes for us (v. 27). God works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (v. 28). God foreknew us and has predestined us to be conformed to the image of Jesus (v. 29). God calls all those he predestined; he justified all those he called; he glorified all those he justified. No one is lost. The chain is unbreakable (v. 30). If God is for us, no one can be against us (v. 31). God, who gave his Son for us, will graciously give us all things (v. 32). God has justified us, so no one can bring a charge against us (v. 33). Jesus died for us, he was raised for us, and he sits at the right hand of God interceding for us—and so no one can condemn us (v. 34). There is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ—not tribulation, not distress, not persecution, not famine, not nakedness, not danger, not sword, not death or life, not angels or rulers, not things present, not things to come, not powers, not height, not depth, not anything in all creation.

The love of God for us in Christ isn’t going anywhere. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work in perfect unity for our salvation. We will be delivered from suffering one day. We will be delivered from fear and disease and economic uncertainty one day. There will come a day when God will wipe away every tear we have cried. Brothers and sisters, we will see that day.

Until then, we lament—and we believe. We grieve—and we hope. We battle fear—and we cast our anxieties upon the Lord. We cry—and we press on together. We struggle—and we trust Christ.

By Justin Perdue

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