“O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!” (Habakkuk 1:2)
There may be times in our lives that God seems silent. We pray and cry out to God; and it seems as if our prayers go unheard. Everything around us seems chaotic and uncertain. We read in our Bibles of victory, but everything we do seems to come to failure. We begin to be filled with doubt and think to ourselves that if God would just show Himself in some way, then we would believe His promises and would be able to make it through.
The Psalms are full of cries from David wondering why God is silent:
(Psalms 6:3) “My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?”
(Psalms 13:1-2) “…How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? (2) How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?”
(Psalms 79:5) “How long, LORD? wilt thou be angry for ever?…”
(Psalms 89:46) “How long, LORD? wilt thou hide thyself for ever?…”
(Psalms 94:3) “LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph?”
These feelings are not strange or reserved for the elect few. Many have felt this same time of silence from God throughout the ages (1 Peter 5:9; 4:12).
God gave Noah a strange and unheard-of task. It had never rained on earth before the great flood. Where Noah lived, there were no large bodies of water. However, God asked Noah to build a boat large enough to house at least two of all living creatures in the world. Noah obeyed God; it took him a hundred and twenty years to finish the task. God told Noah it would rain, but He didn’t give Noah a timeline. He just said it would happen. In faith, Noah began to tell everyone to look out for the rain! The flood is coming! At first, maybe a few at least listened in curiosity; but when God delayed in showing up, they began to ridicule Noah and call him crazy. We tend to lose hope in God’s promises after only a of couple days; Noah waited 120 years.
When Abraham was 75 years old, he was promised that he would be the father of many nations (Genesis 12). At that time, he was childless; and yet God told him that his seed would inherit a land prepared for them. Abraham left all in search of this land, following God in faith. About 25 years later, God appeared to Abraham again and told him that it was time to fulfill His promise. 25 years is a long time to wait. When God finally appeared, Abraham and Sarah, his wife, both laughed and basically said to God, “It is too late now! You waited too long, God! We are too old to have children! Why did you wait so long?”
Joseph was sold into slavery as a young boy and spent most of his years in suffering, as he waited for God to fulfill His promises. For years he endured hardship without even a hint that his troubles would end. He was even falsely accused of rape and spent many years in prison.
It is easy to see that we are all forced to wait on God at times. It is good to remember though, that in our relationships with God, the “how long” can go both ways. Just as often as we cry out to God for action on His part, He has cried out to us for action on our part:
(Exodus 16:28) “And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?”
(Numbers 14:11) “And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?”
(Numbers 14:27) “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me?…”
(Psalms 4:2) “O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing?”
(Matthew 23:37) “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
When times get hard and we cry out to God for action, let us remember that He is longsuffering. We should hold fast in faith, trusting in God to work out His good plan in our lives. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9). We should also understand that often when we cry out “how long” to God, the answer lies within our response to His “how long” to us.
(1 Kings 18:21) “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.”
What is your answer?
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