How Long, O Lord?

Honest faith requires expressions of lament. Most of us do not have to ponder too deeply to realize that something is wrong; the world’s not all as it should be. However, this feeling, this sense of discomfort and frustration, is not often expressed in our worship. Shouldn’t we be able to express ourselves honestly in worship, asking God the difficult questions—the ones that keep us up at night due to our lack of satisfying answers?

The biblical story tells us, “Yes . . . this feeling is okay.” Time and again, we’re reminded that God’s kingdom is here, but it’s not yet. However, this knowledge does not ease our frustration at the not-yetness of God’s reign. The psalms offer remarkable expressions of lament.

The following resource is based on passages from Psalms 13:1-4 and 22:1-2.

Following each verse from the Scripture passage is a contemporary translation. Consider using two readers—one for the psalm, and one for the modern expression.

If possible, the reading should be memorized, since internalizing the passage allows for a more dramatic rendering of the text.

This particular reading is most appropriate for Good Friday. However, you might also find use for it during a time of congregational tragedy or a service focused on personal grief, like an Advent Service of Consolation. Our congregation used the musical pieces to provide an artistic framework to the reading. The cellist played underneath the entire reading.

Vocal Solo: “How Long, O Lord?” (John Bell) LUYH

Cello Solo: Bach, “Cello Suite No. 2 in D Minor, Sarabande”

Reader 1: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.

Reader 2: God, I’m so lonely! I’m sad and depressed, and nothing seems to help.

Reader 1: O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but I have no rest.

Reader 2: I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. The stress is overwhelming and you don’t even seem to care.

Reader 1: How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

Reader 2: Enough is enough! I’m sick of feeling ignored! I don’t deserve any of this.

Reader 1: How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Reader 2: For too long I’ve carried this depression on my shoulders. Anxiety from family, work, friends—obligations! The arrogant ones are snubbing their noses! They don’t think I have what it takes. . . .

Reader 1: Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death.

Reader 2: O God, answer me! Is there something I’m missing here? I call out, but all I hear is deathly silence.

Reader 1: And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him.” And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.

Reader 2: The arrogant ones—they judge me. They even laugh when I fail! Who is there to understand?

(pause)

Reader 1 and Reader 2: How long, O Lord, how long?

Reflection

Emily Snider is an M.M. and M.Div. candidate at Baylor University and George W. Truett Theological Seminary. She also serves as minister of music at Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas.