The Unexpected Generosity from the Lord

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?

Consider me and answer, Lord my God.
Restore brightness to my eyes;
otherwise, I will sleep in death.
My enemy will say, “I have triumphed over him,”
and my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your faithful love;
my heart will rejoice in your deliverance.
I will sing to the Lord
because he has treated me generously (Psalm 13).

There are two words repeated in this psalm that almost all of us can relate to:

“How long?”

We’ve all had seasons of “how long.” Sometimes it’s a season of a prolonged illness. Or it might be a struggling or broken relationship. It could be a wayward child or a parent refusing to acknowledge the reality of their current situation. Or it might be that here, close to the tail end of 2021, that it still feels like 2020 in many ways. That last one hits home – we look around our world right now and there is a collective groan that says, “How long, Lord? How long?”

Of course, God doesn’t really deal in time the way that we do. We don’t have to look too far through the pages of Scripture until we learn that God, in His eternity, plays the long game. With the Lord, a thousand years are like a day for He exists as the Ruler over time and space and not a being bound by it. We might decry, “How long?” and yet to the Lord it is in fact not long at all.

Though important to recognize this reality, the truth does not change our experience. It only informs it. But that informing does little to soothe the soul during the “how long” seasons. Because those seasons are painful. Not a sharp pain, but a dull ache, always in the background. It’s a throbbing of the heart and mind that’s always there, day after day. Month after month. Sometimes year after year.

Given that, we expect the first two stanzas of this psalm. We expect the refrain of “how long.” Further we expect the psalmist to be on the verge of succumbing to his enemies because we know that feeling, too. When the “how long” goes on, we wonder whether or not it will last forever – that maybe whatever enemy is on the attack might well win over us. But what is much less expected – even surprising – is how the psalm ends.

It’s a resolution of sorts. It’s a willful exercise of faith. That despite the circumstances that prompted the lament of “how long,” the psalmist will not give in. He is choosing the road of hope. He is walking the road of faith:

But I have trusted in your faithful love;
my heart will rejoice in your deliverance.
I will sing to the Lord
because he has treated me generously.

And yet even more surprising is the very last line – that the Lord has treated him with generosity. This is the unexpected generosity of the Lord – surprising because even in the midst of the “how long,” the Lord is generous with us.

But how can that be? How can we count the Lord as generous during seasons like this?

For a number of reasons, but here are two to consider. The first has to do with time, as mentioned earlier. God’s highest goal for us – the trajectory of His will – is for us to be conformed to the image of Jesus. This is what He is after in our hearts, and that being true, God is no miser when it comes to our circumstances. These “how long” times, difficult though they are, are also some of the most formative times of our lives. They are shaping times. They are refining times. And because they are, the Lord is generous with us though it might not seem so.

The second reason, though, is greater, because the Lord has once and for all proven His generosity with us. What is generosity if not the happy willingness to give to another out of great personal cost? Surely the Lord had modeled this, once and for all, through the sacrifice of Jesus. The Lord has treated us generously because no matter what our circumstances might be, He has given us a seat at His table. He has brought us into His family. He has adopted us as His sons and daughters in Christ.

Oh yes, the Lord has been generous. Unexpectedly, surprisingly, consistently, and eternally generous.

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