How Long, O Lord? Hope in the Heartache

Depression in young age

This life not only offers great happiness but intense sorrow. Every person will eventually face dark days, and most people will suffer unbearable heartbreak along the way. The dreaded call in the middle of the night. The broken marriage and heart that never heals. The stillbirth and the empty crib in the barren room. The debilitating disease that takes more each day. The disability that steals dreams. The list could go on and on.

Pain is an unavoidable part of life. Faced with terrible tragedy, we wonder why. In fact, David asked a similar question in Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord?” From Psalm 13:1-2, we’ll  look at a couple of realities about suffering and seek help from additional Scriptures as well.

First, our pain almost always leaves us with unanswered questions. David asked, “How Long?” four times in just two verses. The trial he faced seemed unending and exceedingly agonizing. This kind of intense pain leaves us wondering about God. How do you pursue a God who doesn’t stop your pain? We simply can’t answer all of the questions that result from our suffering, but we do find truths in Scripture that help in the midst of our pain.

Considering the origin of suffering is critical. God created a perfect world without pain, evil, and suffering. The beauty and benevolence of this perfect paradise ended when Adam and Eve rejected the rule of God. With this sinful choice, the consequences of sin came crashing down into creation, ultimately infecting every human heart and all of creation. Now, we struggle with our own sinfulness and brokenness. Not only that, creation itself is good but broken by the terror of tornados and tsunamis and so much more.  From a biblical perspective, all suffering is ultimately the result of this rebellion against God. In this rebellion, we too are active participants as each one of us have rejected God and done as we pleased. So the ultimate origin of suffering is sin. Sin brought pain and death into an otherwise perfect world. Now, let’s consider some of the ways that God works for the good in the midst of suffering.

The Bible reveals that God uses suffering redemptively in many ways. For example, He uses suffering to test and deepen our faith (1). He uses suffering to help us find our joy in Christ (2). God works through suffering to further the gospel (3). Suffering can purify and strengthen the church (4). Heaven will be even more glorious for the sufferer (5). The reality that God works in the midst of the suffering of His people doesn’t answer all of our questions, but it does give us some reason for hope. Our suffering isn’t random and out of God’s hands. No, He is in control, even in our suffering. And He works for the good of His children.

We recognize that God can bring good even out of suffering and pain, but this does not answer all of our questions, especially when our pain is fierce and a constant companion. In these situations, we admit that suffering often remains a mystery. We just cannot grasp God’s ways or what He is doing. What Old Testament character faced greater pain than Job? Yet Job never saw what God was accomplishing behind the scenes (Job 1). Often, we won’t be able to make sense of the pain in our lives either.

We’ve seen that God works for the good of His children in the face of suffering. We’ve also seen that God’s purposes are frequently mysterious. This leaves us with the real question of where to find help and hope in the midst of misery?

Second, God is the ultimate answer in the face of our pain. David recognizes this in Psalm 13. Though he is struggling, David goes to the Lord for help in His hurt. In our grief, we must do the same. We cannot allow our agony to trap us in the dungeons of despair, keeping us from the only true hope, the only one who really heals broken hearts.

As we walk through heartache, reflecting on the incarnation of the Lord Jesus helps (Philippians 2:5-8). He left the wondrous perfection of Heaven and became flesh for our rescue. He suffered a miserable death.  In this brokenness, God did what God does so well. He took the sinful and wicked works of men and accomplished the greatest rescue of all times! So dwell on the incarnation of Jesus. We have a God who loves His children like crazy and who took the worst event of human history and accomplished the most wondrous feat of eternity. There’s  solace and hope here. He’s working in your life too if you belong to Him.

Not only do we dwell on the incarnation of Jesus, we meditate on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Why the resurrection? Because the resurrection reminds us that Jesus conquered death! His resurrection means that God’s children will be rescued one day from all of the torturous trials of this life. We’ll know a new paradise, but this paradise will have no serpent slithering around creating havoc. No, in this paradise, all of the horrors of sin and suffering are undone. There will be only joy and happiness! The tears. They’re gone. The pain. Not anymore. Eternal joy and sweet delight! While this doesn’t make our pain go away now, it reminds us that our sorrow is not eternal, but our joy and happiness will be. This life is often much more like a puzzle than a painting, but we can trust the One who holds the pieces. When your heart screams out, “How long, O Lord,” keep holding on. There is hope in the heartache.

(1) Psalm 66:10; Rom 5:3-4; 2 Cor 1:8-9; James 1:3-4, 12; Hebr 5:8; 11:17; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 4:12.

(2) Acts 5:41, 2 Cor 12:9-10, Phil 3:7-8, 1 Peter 4:13.

(3) Acts 11:19, 2 For 1:5-6, Phil 1:14, 2 Tim 2:10.

(4) Col 1:24, 1 Peter 4:17, Rev 2:8-10.

(5) Matt 5:11-12, Rom 8:18, 2 Cor 4:17-18, 1 Peter 4:13.