Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 14: "When Will This End?"
“Lord, when will this end??? When will you bring this sad chapter in my life to a close? When will you lift your finger off of me and let me breath again? When will you look on me with your love and favor again? Will this ever end, or is it your intention that I live with this for the rest of my life? Will it end, and if so, then when?”
That’s the prayer born of crisis. It’s a good prayer, too. Far from being a sinful prayer, it is a prayer of honesty that reflects an underlying faith in God. One of the difficult things about a crisis in the life of a Christian is the fact that we sometimes don’t know how to pray to God. If we are already self-conscious about our prayer life, thinking that our prayers ought to be like the ones we hear in church on Sundays (which they shouldn’t be anyway), and that God only hears prayers that praise Him, then offering a prayer like the one above may seem disrespectful and even sinful.
Yet the Bible itself contains many such prayers. Here are some examples:
- "How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?" (Psalm 13:1-2a).
- "How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire?" (Psalm 79:5)
- "O LORD God Almighty, how long will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people? You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful. You have made us a source of contention to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us. Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved" (Psalm 80:4-7).
- "How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire? Remember how fleeting is my life. For what futility you have created all men! What man can live and not see death, or save himself from the power of the grave? O Lord, where is your former great love, which in your faithfulness you swore to David?" (Psalm 89:46-49).
These Psalms are known as Psalms of lament (“lament”: to feel or express deep sorrow for; mourn or grieve for; to regret deeply). They give expression to the deep grief, the deep frustration, the deep sorrow and sadness that calamity or crisis bring into a believer’s life. They are part of God’s Word to us, and they can serve as a pattern for us when we, too, are in the process of lamenting troubles in our lives. This is so for two broad reasons: First, because they do give expression to our sorrows and inner doubts and fears regarding God. They show us that God wants honesty when we pray to Him. They show us that our darker emotions are not sinful in and of themselves. Secondly, because each of these Psalms of lament ends on a note of hope and faith:
- "But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me" (Psalm 13:5-6).
- "Do not hold against us the sins of the fathers; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need. Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name's sake" (Psalm 79:8-9).
- "Restore us, O LORD God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved" (Psalm 80:19).
- "Remember, Lord, how your servant has been mocked, how I bear in my heart the taunts of all the nations, the taunts with which your enemies have mocked, O LORD, with which they have mocked every step of your anointed one. Praise be to the LORD forever! Amen and Amen" (Psalm 89:50-52).
Prayers like the one at the beginning of this devotion express our feelings honestly and openly. They are prayers of lament, and they run the risk of communicating our fears and doubts about God’s timing, His goodness, His purposes because we know in Jesus Christ that those fears are ultimately misplaced. God is not, in fact, angry with us; He doesn’t toy with His people or prolong their suffering; He isn’t callous toward us. Instead He is loving toward us, merciful, and gracious. We know that because of Jesus. So we know that God will help us. That is why we are bold to cry out to him in prayers of lament. They show that we are still connected to God in faith. They are doing exactly what 1 Peter 5:6-7 tells us to do: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
The issue of “when”, which is the issue of timing, is in the Lord’s hands. Here we recognize that His timing isn’t our timing. His timing is based on His purposes for the world – and our part in that purpose – and for the spread of the Gospel, as well as His plans for our lives. Whenever God relieves us of our crosses of suffering – and in whatever ways He accomplishes it – we can be sure that the timing will be perfect for us, because God never does anything to us to hurt us, but always and only to help us. We are, after all, His dearly loved children!
Prayer: Father, sometimes it seems wrong to throw my fears your way; as if I’m sinning. But your Word gives me examples of how the saints of old have done the same thing, and yet all in faith. Their examples make me bold to cast my anxieties on you, too, for you care for me. Grant that my laments will not slip into accusations, and grant me the assurance that you hear my prayers for help and will answer them – not based on any merit in me, but based on the merits and promises of Your Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ. In His name I pray. Amen.