Psalm 13

How Long, O God, How Long

Have you ever been frustrated with God?

There are times in every believer's life when God seems very far away. Our spirit is empty. Our prayers go unheeded. We feel adrift in life, with no sense of direction. These are the times we might be tempted to cry out, “How long will you wait, God? How long?”

From the viewpoint of one who has never suffered from such a “dark night of the soul,” such a prayer might seem utterly self focused, even on the verge of blasphemy. How dare we complain to God? Yet, to those who have suffered a dry spiritual time, this prayer is perfectly appropriate. A prayer of desperation is not a statement of despair, but actually of deep faith. Even when God is absent, the faithful one clings to his hope in God's eventual return.

Psalm 13 is such a prayer of desperate demand (13:1-4) and hope (13:5-6).

For the Chief Musician. A Psalm by David.

1 How long, YHWH?
Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
having sorrow in my heart every day?
How long shall my enemy triumph over me?
3 Behold, and answer me, YHWH, my God.
Give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;
4 Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”;
Lest my adversaries rejoice when I fall.

The song begins with a set of rhetorical questions: “How long?” The psalmist experienced spiritual dryness as divine abandonment (13:1), weakness of faith (13:2a), and personal shame (13:2b). The questions turn to a demand: “Answer me! Give me hope!” (13:3) Without such help, the singer would certainly be shamed by his opponents (13:4).

5 But I trust in your loving kindness.
My heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing to YHWH,
because he has been good to me.

The psalmist, however, seemed to answer his own prayer. The rhetorical questions and the demand for help was counterbalanced by an act of trust (13:5) and a remembrance of God's fidelity to the singer (13:6b). The singer would continue to sing (13:6a) because he held tightly to the divine covenant (“your loving kindness” in 13:5).

Every adult believer feels spiritually deprived at one time or another in life. Psalm 13 is a perfect prayer for such times. It expresses an honesty of emotion, yet reaffirms a bottom line faith.

One sage said, “It's alright to be mad a God. It's not alright to give up on God.” How does this statement ring true in your life? How does a prayer like Psalm 13 help you understand this sentiment?