High River United Church of High River, Alberta

How Long, O God! How Long? - May 13

Grace & Peace to you,

IMG 3748

photo by David Robertson


Susan’s Reflections on Psalm 13

How long, o Lord? How long?  So we aren’t the first human beings to have asked that question.   Here we find this deepest cry of the heart expressed in the psalms, which were written between 1000 BC and 500 BC.  It is an age-old cry: How long, o Lord?


As we ask this question during this current pandemic, we join those who have made this plea to God in past pandemics and plaques, in times of war and national revolutions, and in individual struggles with physical illness, mental health challenges and grief.  How long, o Lord, how long? How long must I bear this pain in my soul and have sorrow all day long in my heart?


Previous generations, since the beginning of human existence, have experienced far more regular upset of their lives and their plans, but for those of us living in the decades since the 2nd World War, here in North America, life has been quite stable and predictable on a societal scale.  In other areas of the world, this would not be the case, but especially here in Canada, we could mostly make plans and count on carrying them out with a fair amount of certainty.  Plans for visiting friends, going to a movie, heading to a church service or supper, attending the symphony, having a celebratory meal with family, setting a date for a wedding, or heading out for a vacation – all of these were staples of life that we embraced.  We most always had something to look forward to, plans in the works for the next week or month, or even months ahead.


That is partly what is so strange about this time.  The restrictions on gatherings, the directions to shelter at home, and the cancellation of any gathering over 15 people have taken away so many of those plans that shaped our lives.   It is hard to not have events and gatherings to look forward to and to anticipate attending.


After the flood, we worked hard to rebuild our church facility and our town, alongside repairs to our individual homes.  We had a goal in sight.  While it took longer than we could have imagined, we knew what we were heading toward.  There was clarity to the path, even if it was a challenging one on many levels.


But now, we can’t even imagine the path.  It is all so nebulous.  And we personally can’t do much about what would solve this situation.  After the flood, we could physically do something to bring about what we needed.  Now we shelter at home, and move cautiously in the community when we do go out, waiting for others to work on vaccines and anti-viral medications, and plans for re-opening.  It is the oddest feeling when we are movers and shakers and people who want to be involved.


So, we ask, How long, o Lord? How long?  How long must we shelter at home? How long until we can gather again for worship?  How long until we can safely have Simple Suppers? How long until we can gather with our families and friends without worrying about staying 6 feet apart?  How long until we can have weddings and funerals and other celebrations of life?  How long, o Lord, how long?  How long must we live with this sense of alarm and the worry about the future?  How long?


It is such a strange thing to feel helpless and to try not to sink into hopelessness because there is so little of which we have control in this situation.  Yet, the psalm writers points the way: “I trust in your steadfast love, o God. My heart shall rejoice in your saving grace. I will sing to you because you deal bountifully with me.”


What we can do in this time of not knowing, this time of waiting, is to deepen our spiritual practice – to pray, to sing, to count our blessings and to name our fears and frustrations before God.  This is what generations before us have done in times such as this.  The cries and questions of our hearts find a home in God alongside the cries of previous generations who have called out, “How long, o God, how long?”  And in God’s heart, this question is held tenderly and graciously, in love.  In God’s heart, we find the assurance, that generations before us have found, that there will be a time beyond this, a time when we can sing and eat, worship and pray, laugh and work together. 


We just don’t know how long it will be and so we join the psalmist in singing and praying, “How long, o God, how long?”  And then learn to rest in the knowledge that we are held in God’s steadfast love, always.


With love and blessings,

Rev. Susan & Rev. David


High River United Church – a community of help, home & hope

“Just to be is a blessing; just to live is holy.”  A. Heschel



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