(Note: This column was originally scheduled for last Sunday but was delayed due to technical issues. But maybe it can be helpful to someone today.)
How long will this cloudy and rainy weather last? How long until we see the sun again?
I’m sure most of you have said something like that during the past couple of weeks. The dreary, wet weather lasted for twelve days for us, which, according to the weather folks on TV, broke the record for the most consecutive days for measurable rainfall in this area. All the rain waterlogged the fields and crops, and messed up outdoor plans for almost two weeks. We all were thinking, “How much longer is this going to last?”
How long? The weatherman first said it would clear up by Friday. Then it was Saturday, then Sunday. It was finally this past Tuesday, that it finally cleared up and the sun came out. And after seeing all the flooding in South Carolina, we know our situation could have been much worse.
How long? It’s a question that is asked, and not just about the weather. If you have gone on a trip with small kids, you have heard it. “How long until we get there?” It usually starts before you get five miles from home. And I’ve been to plays, recitals and boring movies and have thought, “How long until this thing is over?”
But it can be a more serious question. I have some friends and relatives that are going through some really tough times. They have been dealing with those issues for some time, and I know they are wondering how much longer their ordeals will last. I’m sure there are times they say to God, “How long?”
They should not feel bad about questioning God about how much longer they will have to be under the dark clouds in their lives. Because most of us have done it. I know I have in the past. Wondering when the difficult times will be over is common to us all. Even King David in the Bible, who was described as a man after God’s own heart, had a time when he questioned, “How long?”
Before he was king of Israel, David was a loyal follower of the King Saul. David was popular with the people because of his heroics on the battlefield. King Saul became jealous of David, and wanted him dead. According to Biblical scholars, David was chased by King Saul and his army for around nine years. During that time David had to, among other things, hide in caves, surround himself with a bunch of criminals and misfits, and even faked madness. It was during this time that he composed some of the songs and prayers found in the Book of Psalms.
You can almost feel the desperation and burden he was carrying in the first two verses of Psalm 13. He wrote, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” (Notice that he asks God “How long?” four times in just two verses.)
I wonder if David was hiding out in a cave when he wrote those lines. Was he in the second year, or in the eighth year of running for his life from Saul? I don’t know. But I do know that eventually David’s ordeal would be over and it would be Saul who would be killed. David would go on and become the greatest king in the history of Israel. But when David was questioning God in Psalm 13, he didn’t know that. He just knew that he was in the midst of a trial and wanted to know when it was going to be over. But David had not lost his faith in God. Later in the Psalm he writes, “But I have trusted in Your mercy.” David was still trusting in God, even as he was being unjustly chased by Saul. He was still trusting God, even though his human nature, like the rest of us, wanted to know, “How long?”
When the sun finally came out last Tuesday, didn’t it feel good? Didn’t things outside look so much better? The days of rain and clouds made you notice and appreciate the sunshine. If you are in the midst of one of those “How long?” times, remember that one day, the clouds will depart and the sun will shine. And it is one day closer today than it was yesterday.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.