Psalm 13 How Long?

How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Psalms 13:1-2

From the middle of Psalm 9 through 12 we find lamentation to be the dominant mood; in Psalm 13 we recognize an increased intensity of David’s desperate cries. In Psalm 12 David perceives himself to be alone, as the godly and faithful men seem to have disappeared from the earth. But if that were not bad enough, as we come to Psalm 13, David falls to the depths of despair as he feels abandoned even by God Himself. To the true child of God, the hiding of the Father’s face is the most terrible of all fates – he will not cease to be comforted until he once more rests in blessed assurance with his Father’s smile upon him.

Several individuals in Scripture have experienced lengthy seasons of distress. Consider: Job’s tumultuous episode; Joseph’s years in prison for something he was innocent of; Moses’s 40 years in the wilderness of Midian, waiting for God to fulfill what He called him to; Noah’s year on the ark; even Jonah’s 3 days in the belly of the fish, must have seemed like a lifetime. The man by the pool of Bethesda (John 5) was paralyzed for 38 years before he was healed by Jesus. A woman bound with a spirit of infirmity for 18 years was loosed by Christ (Luke 13:11). The poor man, Lazarus, labored his whole lifetime under disease and poverty until he was released by death, into Abraham’s bosom (Lk 15:20-22). Under such conditions of great distress, one may find the words of this Psalm to be of great consolation. In seasons of trial and temptation, it is common for one’s thought to turn inward. In Psalm 13 David begins this way, however he does not remain melancholy. We know not how long David labored in his depression, but ultimately attending his soul to prayer, he finds relief, joy and a new song. In fact, the joy he finds is all the greater because of the magnitude of his previous sorrow. Sadly there are many Christians who imitate David in the former state of his experience, and not the latter.

Do you find yourself often asking the question, “How long?” If, as was the case for Joseph and Job, there is no apparent sin that is responsible for your lengthy season of sorrow, take heart and trust that God has not turned His face from you, but has only allowed dark providences in order to work things together for your good and His glory, in conforming you to the image of His Son. Believe that your faith will emerge from the fire as pure gold. Our response to dark providences should be that of the thankfulness expressed by John Anselm: Oh, excellent hiding, which is become my perfection! My God, thou hidest thy treasure, to kindle my desire! Thou hidest thy pearl, to inflame the seeker; thou delayest to give, that thou mayest teach me to importune; seemest not to hear, to make me persevere. In Isaiah 54:7-8, God tells Israel , “For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you.” What glorious promises! More than a mere gathering after forsaking, God promises “great mercy” and “everlasting kindness” to make amends for a “mere moment.” God’s end will always surpass your expectation! Can you ever imagine yourself praying as John Bunyon, “Were it lawful, I could pray for greater trouble, for the greater comfort’s sake.”

There are other cases when you must also ask yourself if there is some reason that the Father is hiding his face from you. Has the joy of your salvation departed? If so, inquire of Him into the cause of His anger – He is never angry unless there is a reason. What is that accursed thing in your heart for which God hides His face and does not smile upon you, as He has in the past? For what particular disobedience, for what unbelief, for what abhorrent attitude, for what manner of behavior toward another, has He taken up the rod against you? Job inquired of God (10:2), “Do not condemn me; show me why You contend with me.” What is it that has caused Him to so long delay His help? Be assured that it is not the normal exercise of God’s providence, to trouble the souls of His children for so long a time; so therefore, with humility, seek Him as to His purpose in dealing with your soul in this way. If there be any evil, whether known or undiscovered, ask that it be revealed, that you might repentant over it and find pardon.

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