By Alan Allegra
When the COVID-19 virus first hit the headlines, it seemed we didn’t know what to think. Once we were bombarded with headlines and mandates, we were afraid to think about what we were afraid of. Now that many places are opening up, there is still a lot of uncertainty, and we don’t know what to think. We had hoped this situation would go away in a short time, but one constant theme throughout this pandemic has been, “How long?” How long will it last? How long must we wear masks? How long will businesses be closed? How long before a vaccine is found? The longer we wait, the more plaintive our “How longs” get.
Many situations in life can make us cry out, “How long?” Bible characters were not immune to the problems of life, and many of them wondered how long their situations would last. They often felt abandoned by God and wondered when He was going to act on their behalf. God Himself often spoke those two telling words — not in unknowing fear, but in rebuke. For example, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?’” (Numbers 14:11).
Job had lost almost everything at the hands of Satan: his servants, children, health, and wealth — all in one day! Furthermore, he endured the taunts of his own wife and his best friends while in agony! Job complained to God, “How long will you not look away from me, nor leave me alone till I swallow my spit?” (7:19). He answered his friends, “How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words?” (19:2). He most likely was not looking for a timeline but was expressing his anguish.
King David, who was constantly beset by enemies, often cried out to God for answers. Does this sentiment sound familiar? “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?” (Psalm 13:1–2). This is the cry of a desperate heart. Would it have made a difference if God had given David a cosmic calendar or supernatural smartphone with the answers? Perhaps, but God is not required to do that; He is only required to be God.
Note how David comforts himself — not with a timeline (What if God had answered, “For the rest of your life!”?), but with God’s character and faithfulness: “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” (Verses 5–6). David knew that God is good, and that is all that matters. As David’s son, Solomon, says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11). Between these verses, Solomon lists 14 contrasting pairs of life events that we may experience as proof.
As unpleasant circumstances drag on, it’s OK to ask, “How long, O Lord?’ However, the most important thing to remember is to “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).
Alan is Content Coordinator for Lifestyles Over 50 (Thrive Media) and contributor to the Allentown, PA, Morning Call. He is also an adult Sunday school teacher and Bible study leader. Passionate about reviving theology and church methodology, and being a senior citizen!