How Long?

“Let each of us examine his thoughts; he will find them wholly concerned with the past or the future. We almost never think of the present, and if we do think of it, it is only to see what light is throws on our plans for the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.” – Blaise Pascal

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In Psalm, 13 David gives great voice to the difficulty, suffering, and obstacles that tend to come up in this life. In verse 1-2, he asks, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hid Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy by exalted over me?” I am sure that you have asked this question at least once or twice in your life, perhaps in the middle of a difficult period of loss or transition.

Well, this week, W. David O. Taylor announced a project that he is working on with Bono and Eugene Peterson. The project will be a dialogue between Bono and Peterson on some of the sayings in the Psalms that have served as inspiration for Bono and his music with the enormously famous band U2.

Perhaps most popular is the song 40, that Bono and U2 based on the Scripture found in Psalm 40. Apparently, it took the band less than an hour to write this song after turning to Psalm 40 and deciding that this text would be the basis for the song’s lyrics.

Psalm 40:1-3 says, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.”

This Psalm, in addition to Psalm 13, poses the question of trust in the Lord despite the difficult times faced in the life. Peterson, translator of The Message translation of the Bible, views this obedience and trust in the face of difficult as being a cornerstone of Christian discipleship. In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, Peterson says, “Hoping does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. It means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusion. It is not compelled to work away at keeping up appearances with a bogus spirituality. It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying. And hoping is not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion or fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain. It means a confident alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do.”

It is with this posture and David asks, “How Long?” There  is a confidence to say, as Psalm 13:5-6 does, “I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” In an age of instant gratification and the certainty of difficulty, may we worship Him with this type of obedience, trust, and hope!

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