This question appears many times in The Word. The tension between our trust in God’s love and the reality of life on earth sometimes overwhelms. “How long” has been a burning question throughout history. I have asked God that question, and many friends as have as well. How long will this storm rage? How long will this pain last? How long will the corona virus plague us? How long will evil overcome good? How long until you come again Jesus?
Even Jesus expressed his frustration with the sadness and suffering around him. “And Jesus answered, ‘O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?’” (Matthew 17:17 ESV). Jesus’ enemies demanded, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (John 10:24 ESV).
We like to know the reasons for what is happening. Even when we know in our hearts, as did the Jewish leaders, we demand more information. Perhaps we want to change God’s mind or bargain with him. Of course, like Jesus, we could simply be tired and frustrated with what seems like an unending battle against the limits of earthly life. We are short of time, money, energy and patience. Evil seems to abound while good people suffer. Lies seem to have more power than truth.
David had his ‘moment’ in Psalm 13. “Will you forget me forever?” “Answer me.” And we will have our moments…they may even stretch into hours and days. But there was a place he could go. He went to the rock solid truth that grounded his life as he dealt with his enemies, his dysfunctional family and even his own sin. He went back to God’s steadfast love.
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.
We observe a model here that we would do well to follow: Remember God’s love—rejoice in our salvation—sing. When we turn from our sorrow and frustration to these three constructive actions, God restores our soul. He reminds us that no matter long we walk this earth, and whatever we encounter along our way, God does deal bountifully with us.
Paul echoed this encouragement in his letter to the church in Corinth: Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:7, 12-13
We trust in the fact that one day we will be with him, we will see him face to face, and we know how long. For eternity!