In a man’s life, there are many seasons of sorrow and despair, there are days of crumbling and days of darkness. Each man may have his own method of coping with such dark days, but the man of God who knows his creator will commence his fight like the Psalmist.
Vs. 1 How long, LORD? This question is repeated four times in the first two verses. It shows the intense desire for deliverance. It shows the psalmist desperation for help, and this question can only be asked if one has been in their darkness and misery for a time. It is like a woman who has gone into labour, and although she is able to endure for many days with the pain, yet there will come a time when all she desires is deliverance and freedom. It is so with the Psalmist; his whole body is burdened with this weight of sorrow. Having no other avenue except the Lord for a deliverance, he calls out to his maker, How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
Has God forgotten about me? Is this why I am left to rot in my misery, because if God remembered me, then surely, He would come and deliver me? Has he forgotten about me like a man left to rot in jail? Hannah, we are told prayed in like manner in her desperation to conceive a child. ‘In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son…” 1 Samuel 1:11. The Psalmist pleads along the same lines, that only if God would remember him and not forget him but deliver him. The question to ask now is, can God forget his saints forever?
God can never forget his saints forever because the scripture declares, ‘But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the LORD has forgotten me”. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;” Isaiah 49:14-16. What a comfort to know that God never forgets his children, regardless of their situation and misery. God will never forget you because you are engraved on the palms of His hands; and the Son of God who died for you sits right next to Him with pierced hands to show that He died for you. Therefore God will never forget you, but God may hide his face from you.
The Psalmist in his desolation and desperation asks Yahweh His God, How long will you hide your face from me? This question is more appropriate than the first because we can answer in the positive that God does hide his face for a while from his children. He hides it not because he has forgotten them, but to teach them or perhaps to cause them to seek after him in desperation and earnestness.
Sometimes it is our own sins which clouds the face of God from us, and only when we come to the altar to weep in repentance, that cloud is removed, and once again we behold the beaming face of our happy Father. In the old testament, God often hid his face from Israel because of their exceeding wickedness and they were left to perish in their sins. “I will hide my face from them,” he said, “and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful”, Deuteronomy 32:20. Hence, whenever a calamity arises, it is sometimes the attitudes of the saints of old to conclude that God has hid his face from them, and there is a seriousness of perishing which disrupts their souls. But we of the new covenant ought not to waver in the midst of calamities, because although God is hiding his face, yet his Love for us is steadfast and Christ Jesus has already paid for our sins; nothing can ever separate us from his love, not even his rod of affliction.
The Psalmist asks God another question, vs. 2, How long must I wrestle with my thoughts? In prayer it is good for the soul to be honest with its maker, and to ask how long. How long must I wait, how long must I wrestle with my thoughts. Here the psalmist is in a turmoil of thought as the original reads, 'till when do I set counsels in my soul?' The result of wrestling with his thoughts had provided no fruit, therefore day after day he has sorrow in his heart. Perhaps he had devised means of how he could escape his hopeless plight, but his enemy is always a step ahead. His enemy continue to gain advantage over him, and the counsels of his soul have proved useless therefore he asks again, How long will my enemy triumph over me? Oh God, please help is the psalmist internal cry. He is desperate for deliverance and tired of waiting. How Long, How Long, How Long perhaps may be your cry at this moment. Perhaps you find yourself in the pit of despair because of your never ending troubles, and your soul aches with sorrow. You see no light at the end of the tunnel, and your only cry is how long Lord? If this is you, then continue to read and see how the psalmist deals with his own questions in the last two verses.
After asking questions, the psalmist with tears on his face barely looking up to the heavens calls out in a whisper, vs. 3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes or I will see death. The psalmist wants answers to the questions he has been asking because further delay will result in his death. Look on me, he asks, for he knows that if God should look at him that God would have pity on him. For God will behold his tears and shrivelled condition, and immediately God will set him free. His eyes can only see the darkness, therefore he asks God for light, for hope, for deliverance. Please God look upon me. This is true of those who are in spiritual darkness, who feels like they have been sentenced to death because of their sins; and unless God once again cause light to shine in their souls they shall see death in their darkness and misery. Those who are friends of sorrow and despair and easily disposed to depression are more heavy if they feel that God has forsaken them; therefore they need his light to constantly shine upon them and to frequently remind them of His steadfast love for them, lest they should walk in obscurity. The psalmist, being David was in constant danger of his life when Saul was his enemy. If God did not come and deliver him and give light to is eyes then surely he will see death and vs. 4 his enemy will say, “I have overcome him”, and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
The enemies of our souls which are death, sin and the devil have all been brought to nothing through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though for a little while they may make a jest of us and rejoice over winning the battle, yet they have lost the war. Christ is the victor and each enemy will be forever locked in the pits of hell where they can never boast nor rejoice; for the saints and their God have won the day. In the final analyses, your enemies will never rejoice over you but you shall rejoice over them for all eternity.
The Psalmist now sobers up after remembering the unchanging nature of God’s love. Oh what a change, what an effective remedy this is to despair and sorrow. Questions should always be asked in the confidence of faith in Yahweh. The psalmist asks God how long, but his questioning did not leave him to doubt Yahweh His Lord. But remembering who Yahweh is and of his unfailing love, he settles the matter with his soul by saying, vs. 5 But I trust in your unfailing love. Despite how long I have waited or how many more days, weeks or years I may have to wait, yet I will hope in your unfailing love. My heart rejoices in your salvation. Once his heart was full of sorrow and confusion, there was a lack of peace in his thoughts, but look now at how He rejoices and dances in the expectation of his deliverance and salvation. The ground of this unwavering hope is his confidence in God and he is as sure of his salvation as the sun will rise in the morning.
We also see that faith is rejoicing before the salvation actually comes. The psalmist does not wait until God delivers him before he begins to rejoice, but before. The thought of God’s unfailing love is enough to cause him to flee all of his anxieties and worries. He throws off those heavy burdens and sweetly rests upon the green pastures of Christ. It is hard for a heavy heart to praise, but a soften heart free of burden and full of the love of Christ cheerfully says, Vs. 6, I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me. This is the attitude to end all of your prayers, to end it with praise. You may begin with sorrow and anguish, bringing your petitions to the Lord, but when you finish remember that He is good to you, that everything works together for your good.