In January, I set out on a quest. It felt like the Hogwarts students’ quest to destroy the horcruxes, the Fellowship’s quest to destroy the Ring, or the Rebel’s quest to destroy the Death Star.
I set out with the Book of Psalms tucked under my arm. On my back, I wore my fears of crying in public, being perceived as weak, and being rejected by those close to me if they saw what was underneath. If I could just destroy these fears, I would accomplish that which seemed impossible.
My quest seemed endless. And it was hard.
The very thing I came to destroy became my reality. Deep emotions filled my heart, and I could not contain my tears no matter how much self-control I mustered. Hopes decimated with the turn of a car key. Peace faded with prolonged indecision. Trust dissolved when gossip emerged.
So I prayed, and every prayer was desperate. “How long will these hardships be here?” “Why is this the way you’ve chosen for me?” “Did you forget me?”
I found comfort that I wasn’t the only one who asked these questions and felt the freedom to continue my prayers that sounded like the psalmists.
“And you, Lord—how long?” – Psalm 6:3
“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long will I store up anxious concerns within me, agony in my mind every day? How long will my enemy dominate me?” – Psalm 13:1-2
“How long, Lord? Will you hide forever?” – Psalm 89:46
“Lord—how long? Turn and have compassion on your servants.” Psalm 90:13
“Lord, how long will the wicked— how long will the wicked celebrate?” – Psalm 94:3
Further and further I went, battling every challenge and praying fervently, “how long, how long, how long?” With each step, I felt more confident that the honesty of my prayers would save me.
But I felt more and more alone, more and more like I was shouting into a black hole.
And then, like any good quest, a friend came along. She walked beside me from the start and now helped me see that I missed the mark.
Up to this point, my journey was about me. My goal was to be a better version of myself so that I could grow and be challenged, that I would be able to walk away and say, “Yes, I have done what I came to do.” Suddenly, I realized my prayers were “Biblical,” in the sense that they used similar words to the psalmists. But my prayers were incomplete because they focused on my circumstances alone.
The purpose of my quest was not “honest” prayers about my circumstances or “honest” emotional expression. It wasn’t about me or my honesty at all. The goal was to know the faithful love of God.
“Save me because of your faithful love.” (Psalm 6:4)
“But I have trusted in your faithful love.” (Psalm 13:5)
“Where are the former acts of your faithful love that you swore to David in your faithfulness?” (Psalm 89:49)
“Satisfy us in the morning with your faithful love.” (Psalm 90:14)
“If I say, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your faithful love will support me, Lord.” ( Psalm 94:18)
Every Psalm I prayed asking “How long?” provided God’s faithful love as the answer. I wanted the answer to be, “Right now,” or “Very soon,” but instead the answer was “Trust in God’s faithful love.”
This is the most honest way to pray. We don’t always remember who God is when we pray. We may ask Him our questions and demand His answers, but He has already given us everything we need. All throughout the Psalms, the prayers would contain both requests and declarations about God’s character.
God’s faithful love is our salvation. He promised it to us, and His promises are sealed up forever. When we ask, “How long?” we can rest in the truth that His faithful love endures forever (Psalm 136). God’s character is as honest as we can be in our prayers. Our quest may feel endless but our God is not.