It doesn’t matter where I am or what I am doing, when I look at the people around me I wonder which version of the psalmist’s question they are asking.
I saw an elderly lady in the part of town people might call “the other side of the tracks” leaning against a retaining wall in the early evening and wondered if she was asking how long before she would be seen equally by all. How long before she or her children might have the same opportunities given to the kids on the good side of the tracks? How long until she can sleep at night feeling safe from the ruckus and crime outside her window? How long, Lord, how long?
I saw a well-dressed man at the bar, eating a salad and constantly interacting with his cell phone and wondered if he was asking, somewhere deep down in a place he doesn’t allow anyone else to see, how long until he finds peace. How long must he put on this facade of being in control? How long until he finds solace for his insecurities and failings? How long must he live before he finds comfort in the night when the lights are out and he is alone? How long, Lord, how long?
I saw a woman walking two designer dogs down a street of million-dollar homes and wondered if she was asking the question how long before she finds contentment. How long must she cover her insecurities with the trappings of wealth? How long before she will be known the way she wants to be known? How long will it be before her life falls apart, as she most likely fully expects it to? How long before her neighbors know that her marriage is a sham and both she and her husband are unfaithful to each other? How long, Lord, how long?
I saw a woman sitting on a porch in a wheelchair talking to a man on the sidewalk who was also in a wheelchair and wondered if they were both asking how long they must endure the pain of restriction and isolation. How long must they be confined to this house, this porch, and this chair? How long before they can go where they want, when they want? How long before she and her friend can take a walk without hearing the sound of electric motors? How long will they be stuck? How long, Lord, how long?
I looked through the glass and saw a man wondering how long he must endure the residue of his sinful nature. How long before he is a new man? How long before the work of sanctification starts to show a changed heart? How long must he wait? How long will his nature draw him inside himself? How long will he be like Narcissus? How long, Lord, how long?
I look at so many people, most of whom I believe are asking various versions of “how long?” and I wonder if they all feel alone. I wonder if they think they are the only ones who suffer they way they do. I wonder if they know that the most important verse in the Bible might just be “Jesus wept.” I wonder if anyone will reach out to touch and understand them.
I look at these people who are hurting, groaning in despair, and surrounded by crowds of loneliness and wonder if they know they have much to offer all the other people who are hurting just as they are. I wonder if they could look beyond themselves, if only just for a moment, and see how much healing the world might experience at their hands. I wonder why their fears and anxiety keep their healing hands and voices locked away and hidden inside. I wonder when they will break their chains and reach out to other hurting people. I wonder when I will break my chains.
I see their tears and wonder how long it will be before the Lord wipes them away. I wonder if the Lord would be upset if, while we are waiting for him to wipe our tears away, we wiped away the tears of others who are in pain. I wonder if that’s the purpose for which he created us. I wonder if he would be pleased if I stopped my car and talked to the elderly lady leaning against the wall. I wonder if he wants me to step up to the bar and become friends with the well-dressed man. I wonder if he would help me know how to show love to the woman with the designer dogs. I wonder if I have the nerve to find a way to help the two people in the wheelchairs. I wonder how long, Lord, how long?