How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? — Psalm 13:1-2, ESV
This may very well be one of the most life-draining and hope-shattering questions that we could ever have to ask God.
If I'm having to ask that question, it means that I am going through something that is absolutely tearing me apart. The situation is eating away at the hope that I've had stored up in me. In fact, "how long" is the enemy of hope. And what's worse is that many times God does not answer this question. He doesn't always give a timeline as to when it will be over. In fact, I can't think of a time when he has given me the answer to, "how long" with an amount of time.
But here's the encouraging thing in that question: you're still asking God which means that you're still relying on him. So many people give up on calling out to God, and some right before the circumstance was about to change. I wonder how often I have missed the miracle that God was about to do because I stopped going to him in the midst of the pain of the situation opting to "fix it myself."
Here are things that I think we need to keep in mind as we face the "how long" circumstances that hit all of us.
1). BE HONEST. Be honest that you're going through a tough time. For many people, this is the first and greatest hurdle to have to get over. Why? Because to admit weakness and a need for help is not an option. There's a word for that type of outlook and perspective: pride. If you don't kill the pride inside of you, pride will make sure that it destroys you over the course of your life.
2). BE REAL. When you approach God, stop thanking him for the day if you're not truly thankful for it. The thing about all of Psalm 13 is that it is a heart-wrenching and raw prayer prayed by the man that God described as a man after God's own heart. Stop lying in your time with God. Be raw with how you're doing.
3). BE ALERT. Keep your eyes open for God's answer. You see, he may not tell you how long you will have to go through something, but he will help you see things from a different and better perspective. Look at how David closes this Psalm.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me. - Psalm 13:5-6, ESV
At the beginning of the Psalm, David sounds hopeless. But by the end of it, he seems renewed. What changed? His perspective. First, he remembered the past. He remembered how God had been good to him in the past. He remembered how he had trusted in God's steadfast love before. Second, he made a decision. He didn't sit around and play the victim to the circumstances, but rather he made a decision to rejoice and sing to the Lord because of how God had been so good to him in the past.
How long, Lord?
He may not tell you how long when you ask this question, but I promise you that he will carry you through to the other side of it.