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06.11.2020

How Long, Lord?

Here we go. Again. But it feels different this time. The days are getting darker, that glimpse of a normal summer is a fading memory, and our horizons of Christmas, New Year, and 2021 are all shrouded in uncertainty. How long before this is over? How long, Lord?

I submit that this is not really a question that seeks the kind of answers found in SAGE reports. It’s a question born of an exasperated, broken spirit, crying for comfort more than control. And if you find yourself asking it, you’re in good company. ‘How long, Lord?’ is a question commonly asked by the Bible’s poets.

Eugene Peterson said that ‘the psalms train us in honest prayer’. To be honest with God requires us to be honest with ourselves, to express our felt feelings and thought thoughts – not just the ‘right’ ones. Prayers don’t have to be neat and tidy. In fact, they’re best when they’re rough and ready, somewhere in the in-between of frustration and faith, lament and longing, confusion and confidence.

Asking ‘how long?’ can be just such a prayer if we let it. That might not make the question go away, but it does allow our perspective to shift. This is what the Psalms reveal. Each poet who voices the question ‘how long?’ also voices a trust that God will definitively act to make all things well in the end: ‘But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation’ (Psalm 13:5).

Julian of Norwich, no stranger to pandemics herself, captured the same sentiment in the fourteenth century: ‘All shall be well. All shall be well in the end, yes. But it is also necessary to add, if it is not well with you today, then it is not yet the end.’ This is a perspective full of faith, of hope, of trust in the goodness and victory of God. A perspective that the psalms reveal, that prayer makes believable. A perspective we, in turn, can offer our neighbour.

England’s new national lockdown will undoubtedly take its toll on our relationships, on our economy, and on our collective mental health. It drives me to ask, ‘how long, Lord?’ But to do so is to put into practice the only sermon application I have ever been able to stick to: when all else fails, pray. It will all be well in the end.

Tim Yearsley
Emerging Leaders Lead, LICC

Comments

  1. I needed that this morning Tim. Thanks for reminding me that if all is not yet well, it’s not yet the end. Praying this today.

    By David Benson - 6th November 2020
  2. HI Tim,
    Thanks for the article, a timely reminder.
    Where did you get the quote from Julian of Norwich from? The first half could come from Chapter 27 of Revelation of Divine Love, but I have never seen the second half except as a reported comment from Oscar Wilde.

    By Alison Gray - 6th November 2020
    • Hi Alison, I heard this spoken by Rev Lucy Winkett on Thought For The Day on 28 Oct.

      By Tim Yearsley - 6th November 2020
  3. Dear Tim, I found this so encouraging today. Thank you. I will be sharing with friends.
    Rachel Williams.

    By Rachel Williams - 6th November 2020
  4. very encouraging but as an older person not brilant with internet found it quite a challenge to sign up but i think got there in the end

    By joanna thomas - 6th November 2020
  5. Like Alison I’m trying to source the Julian of Norwich quote.
    Is the Julian of Norwich quote taken from,
    “It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”
    with the:
    “But it is also necessary to add, if it is not well with you today, then it is not yet the end.” attributed to Rev Lucy Winkett?

    Sorry to be a pain – but want to check before misquoting 🙂

    By Andy - 6th November 2020
  6. On the Julian of Norwich quote, yes, it’s a blend, but rightly used for intent (i.e., it’s consonant, though not technically a quotation).

    You can find the full text from “Revelations of Divine Love” at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/52958/52958-h/52958-h.htm – see the Thirteenth Revelation, Chapter 27. In the context of lamenting over why sin entered the world, and how it could ever be set right again, she shares this encounter with Christ:
    “But Jesus, who in this Vision informed me of all that is needful to me, answered by this word and said: It behoved that there should be sin; [in Ye Olde English: “”Synne is behovabil, but al shal be wel & al shal be wel & al manner of thyng shal be wele.””] but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.
    In this naked word sin, our Lord brought to my mind, generally, all that is not good, and the shameful despite and the utter noughting[2] that He bare for us in this life, and His dying; and all the pains and passions of all His creatures, ghostly and bodily; (for we be all partly noughted, and we shall be noughted following our Master, Jesus, till we be full purged, that is to say, till we be fully noughted of our deadly flesh and of all our inward affections which are not very good;) and the beholding of this, with all pains that ever were or ever shall be,—and with all these I understand the Passion of Christ for most pain, and overpassing. All this was shewed in a touch and quickly passed over into comfort: for our good Lord would not that the soul were affeared of this terrible sight.
    But I saw not sin: for I believe it hath no manner of substance nor no part of being, nor could it be known but by the pain it is cause of.”

    For more context, see https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/incontext/article/julian.

    By Dave Benson - 6th November 2020
  7. Thank you! Herein the U.S., we can also apply that, “How long, Lord?” to our election, which is beginning to look more and more like the movie Groundhog Day.

    Blessings to you all as you go into lockdown.

    By Cynthia Tews - 6th November 2020
  8. Thank you Tim and Dave for helping to clarify the quotation – really helpful.
    Blessings

    By Andy - 6th November 2020
  9. Hi Tim,
    One of our congregation sent me this piece for inclusion in our Churches’ Magazine as it resonated strongly with her and she would like to share it with our subscribers who are in the main elderly and have limited internet access or capabilities. We will of course acknowledge your authorship and site but are there any other copyright issues we need to be aware of including payment being required?
    Thank you.
    Yours in Christ,
    Agnes

    By Agnes Hill - 7th November 2020
    • Hi Agnes

      I’m glad you’ve found this piece encouraging. Do feel free to share this with your subscribers including – as you mentioned – acknowledgement of author, LICC, and a link to our website. We hope it blesses your readers and do keep us posted with any feedback!

      Thank you,

      Adnan
      Digital Lead, LICC

      By Adnan Khan - 9th November 2020

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