"Then I said 'How long, O Lord?'" Isaiah 6:11
“How long, O Lord?” comes from Isaiah 6:11. In his temple vision Isaiah saw the Lord “high and lifted up.” During that truly awesome encounter God asked “Whom shall I send?” The times were perilous, and the people needed a prophet. Isaiah enthusiastically answered the call: “Here am I. Send me!” His response was courageous and faithful. After hearing the assignment, Isaiah asked a question “how long, O Lord?”
The book of Isaiah chronicles his long obedience. He stayed the course even when it was unpopular. His question did not hint at doubt or reluctance. He wasn’t looking for a two-week mission trip. He was in it for a lifetime, if needed.
But when we ask “how long, O Lord?” we often do so hoping that the light is at the end of the tunnel, and that that light is not an oncoming train! How long? is the question we ask when the diagnosis is hard. Or the relationship is in trouble. Or the stock market takes away a good percentage of our investments. How long, O Lord? is really a question about when and if God will intervene. And it actually focuses on us. “How much longer do I have to put up with this?”
There is often no answer to that question. The choices people make may not be good or right, and that extends our misery. The medicine sometimes does not work. The problems you face often turn into long-term dull aches. Who can tell when it will end?
The one choice available to you is an affirmation of faith found in the words “however long, O Lord.” Say that and mean it, and you affirm your commitment to God no matter what. However long it takes, you will remain faithful. Whatever comes along, you will remain faithful. No matter how hard the way, you will trust God, for He is always on your side.
“How long, O Lord?” is understandable, but ultimately fruitless. You simply don’t know. “However long, O Lord” puts you on firm footing to bear whatever comes your way. This is the faith you need.
Dr. Terry Ellis
September 15, 2013