“O Lord—how long?”
“O Lord—how long?” – Psalm 6
Everyone has their favorite scripture texts, and this is one of mine (along with “How long, O Lord?” from Psalm 13). Besides being easy to memorize, it’s good for those times when you think you just can’t stand another minute of whatever is going on, but you don’t have a choice. You’ve got to endure until whatever it is ends. And you don’t know when that will be.
So you ask: “O Lord—how long?” Because you trust that God knows how long it will go on. And bringing God into the situation reminds you that nothing in life is eternal. Nothing goes on forever—a great blessing God provided with the creation of Time. The flip side of grief and loss is the gratitude you feel when some nightmare experience finally comes to an end.
“O Lord—how long?” can just be a prayer for patience in places like the airport or the department of motor vehicles. But in Psalm 6, “O Lord—how long?” is a prayer of fear and pain: “My soul also is struck with terror, while you, O Lord—how long?” This prayer doesn’t ask for the boredom, the frustration, the pain or the fear to end. It just asks: “How long?” The reassurance comes from knowing that it’s not a matter of if—only when. You just have to hang on. And repeat the prayer: “O Lord—how long?”
O Lord, I don’t think I can take another second of riding on this bus, waiting for the painkiller to kick in, having this argument, waiting for someone to hire me, lying in this hospital bed, sitting next to this hospital bed, waiting for the results, missing the dead and departed. So I ask you: How long? Amen.
Christina Villa is the Director of the Publishing, Identity, and Communications Ministry of the United Church of Christ in Cleveland, Ohio.