December 15: How Long, How Long?
Today, we come to the fourth track of our new Advent/Christmas album, which is an original song of lament, written by our own Jordan Hurst …
With broken hearts, fumbling in the dark?
How long, how long must we go on
with open wounds, that compound the gloom?
How long must we lament?
When will our wars and chaos end?
How long till you bring peace?
When will you make oppression cease?
How long, how long must we go on
with death in wait, stealing life away?
How long till joy shall rise?
When will you wipe our tearful eyes?
How long till we shall sing?
When will you end our suffering?
We wait, we long, Lord Jesus, come,
With aching groans, filling up our lungs
Our hope, our song, come Lord Jesus, come
Hear our refrain, crying out your name
For we know, when you arrive
Darkness will run from Your great light
Wholeness and justice shall arise
Heaven and earth shall reunite
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins. They have given the bodies of your servants to the birds of the heavens for food, the flesh of your faithful to the beasts of the earth. They have poured out their blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them. We have become a taunt to our neighbors, mocked and derided by those around us.
How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealousy burn like fire? Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call upon your name! For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation.
Do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake! Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants be known among the nations before our eyes!
Let the groans of the prisoners come before you; according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die! Return sevenfold into the lap of our neighbors the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord! But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
Devotional: Jordan Hurst
It was not even 4 years ago, that I earnestly asked my wife the question, “So, what do you actually mean by ‘feelings’?” She sat dumbfounded, then responded, “Do you hear yourself?” I had become so disconnected from my emotions, so numb to both pain and joy, that I couldn’t comprehend what others were saying when they shared their feelings.
This was also true in my relationship with God. While the scriptures were filled with examples of God’s people leaping for joy, wailing in grief, and pleading for salvation, my spiritual experience was largely disconnected from my lived experience. When I experienced joy, I would cynically write it off; when I experienced pain, I would stuff the feeling and disregard it.
At the root of my view of emotional health was an ancient Greek belief that happiness was found by having the fewest needs possible. Simply ignoring my felt needs, left me experiencing intense (literal) “abdominal migraines” from the years of pent up emotion and stress. My lived experience was obviously not going well for me, and I don’t think I’m alone in this. In fact, I think the western church is largely in the same boat, which has made our theology of suffering incredibly brittle—only robust enough to deal with suffering that is far-removed from ourselves. But what happens when suffering inevitably comes?
The ancient Christian belief we find in scripture is radically different than my own. John Calvin called the Psalms “An anatomy of the soul,” which has only recently made sense to me. The Spirit has been unveiling the gifts of emotions in the mournful psalms, the book of lamentations, the OT prophets’ broken heartedness, and in King Jesus’ own laments in the gospels. I had once believed that speaking our pain to God somehow revealed a lack of faith, but what we see in the lives of David, the prophets and Jesus, is that crying out in pain to God actually is faith in action. To biblically lament is to throw ourselves (and our suffering) upon the one who can actually bring about restoration.
In truth, I wrote “How Long, How Long?”, not because I felt particularly broken-hearted at the time, but because I knew a time would soon come when I would feel that way again. I also wrote it because at any given point in time, my brothers and sisters in Christ are experiencing pain and need words to sing. And finally, I wrote it as an intentional decision to join those in suffering, just as Christ joined us in ours.
And this is the grand gift of Advent—that our God in heaven entered the fragility, vulnerability, and pain of earth to endure and remedy it. Here we sit in 2020, aching (possibly more than ever) for the second advent of Christ. This year has been plagued with anxiety, loneliness, and disappointment—our hearts are aching for restoration. But what are we to do with the emotions and the pain? According to Paul, we join the groaning of creation. We let the Spirit speak on our behalf (Romans 8), and we emphatically cry out to God, “How long, how long?”, because we know what the end of this age holds! We know that God has, and one day will fully, reunite all things in himself. We have the great hope that Christ’s imminent return will bring about the restoration we long for.
One day, the perfection of heaven (and the glorious presence of God) will be united once again with earth, as it was in the garden. And until then, we cry out: “How long, how long?” And, “May your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!”
Coloring Sheet: Ashley Haug
Members in our church have created coloring pages, which are designed for all ages and artistic ability, as a way to help you further engage with the lyrics and music. We invite you to slow down and meditate on the beauty and depth of this Advent season.Download PDF