How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? - Psalm 13:1
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? - Psalm 13:2
O Lord God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people? - Psalm 80:4
Do you notice the theme in the four verses above? The psalmist is plagued by a question: how long? And these are not the only verses like this in the Scriptures. In fact, in the book of Psalms alone, there are at least fifteen different verses where the psalmist questions the Lord, "How long?"
I imagine Abraham asked that question when the Lord came to him time and time again and promised him a son. "I want to believe you, Lord, but how much longer do I have to wait?"
Moses surely asked the question while wandering around in the desert those long forty years. "I've done what You asked, Lord. I led the people out of Egypt, but how long until we reach our destination? To be honest, Lord, these people are getting on my last nerve!"
Even Joshua and Naaman, I'm sure, had to ask the Lord, "How long?' Yes, the Lord had given them specific directions like march around the wall seven times and dip in the water seven times. But I'm prone to believe that their efforts didn't really have any effect (at least none that they could see) until that seventh and final time. I imagine Joshua studying those walls of Jericho on the fifth day, keenly searching for any sign of crack or weakness. After all, they'd been following God's directions. Surely, they should see some difference by now, right? Or how about Naaman after that fifth dip in the nasty waters of the Jordan River. Don't you know he was examining his skin, searching for any indication that his leprosy was getting better. But I don't think it was, not until all was done in God's timing.
I have certainly had my fair share of "how long" questions lately, one of the most prominent concerning my health. As many of you know, over seven weeks ago, I embarked on a difficult journey to improve my health through dietary changes and increase in exercise. From all the reports and testimonies I've read, the first couple of weeks were rough, but after that, people felt absolutely amazing. Their energy was sky high. Their minds were clear and more focused. Their physical symptoms practically disappeared. Their skin looked better. Even their attitudes and emotional outlooks were improved.
I admit, I hit a similar spell during my third week, but it only lasted about four days. Since then, I've felt as bad, and some days worse, than I did before I began this strict health plan. I'm tired and moody. Every inch of my body aches. I'm experiencing headaches about four days a week. All in all, I feel yucky! So I look back over what I've done for the past several weeks, and it doesn't make sense. I haven't cheated. I've been faithful to my diet and exercise. I have exercised control in all things, yet I don't feel better. I feel worse.
Part of me understands that my body has a lot of repair work to do and is willing to admit that these repairs will take time, thus meaning that I will probably feel worse before I feel better. Another part of me, however, is ready to throw in the towel. "It's not worth it!" my body cries. "The time, the effort, the physical exertion--all for what? So I can feel worse? No, thank you!"
But then I remember all of the various people in the Bible who must have felt the exact same way. Joseph in his roller coaster ride from the pit to the palace. Daniel in the midst of the lions. The disciples who gathered in the upper room after the crucifixion of Christ. Certainly, they were all questioning whether or not it was worth the effort to continue. They had to be wondering, How long until we see some results? How long until we see the good in all of this?
Maybe you, too, can empathize. Perhaps you have your own "how long" questions. If so, take this to heart. We know that everything worked out for those who were faithful and obedient to the Lord's command. Things didn't necessarily happen in their timing, but miracles did happen. The key is to hang in there and keep doing whatever it is that God has called you to do, even if you don't see immediate results. After all, just because we can't see God working doesn't mean that He isn't. Hang in there, dear friend. It's not much longer now!