How Long, O Lord, How Long?

I remember the feeling. I was writing a hymn text with the intent that it could be used for comfort when tragedy came. On one hand, it was fulfilling to know that these words may help others when needed most. On the other hand, it pained me to know that these words would be needed. Again and again.

Tragedy is a part of our lives, and it comes with no explanation. Try as we might to plan and prepare and prevent for the future, evil is inevitable.

The poem I wrote borrows a question from the Book of Psalms. Thousands of years ago, God’s people had a hymn book that lamented during tragedy. “How long, O Lord, how long?” It is woven throughout the collection of poetry, and it attests to the fact that we’ve been asking this question for every generation.

I remember the feeling. I feel it every time tragedy strikes now. I think of the words of this text. I wonder if I should share. Will it help? Will it hurt? Will it seem that I’m somehow taking advantage of the moment?

Then the comfort comes: it’s not about me. Just as the psalmists asked, “How long, O Lord?”, we ask too. And we’ll continue to ask until the Day when tragedy is no more.

Your Church on Earth Is Crying
Psalm 13; 35; 79; 89; 90; Revelation 6:10

Stanzas 2–5 may be included or omitted as appropriate to the need.

Your Church on earth is crying,
“How long, O Lord, How long?”
Your precious ones are dying;
The enemy is strong.
Redeemer, we are yearning
To see Your holy face.
We trust in Your returning
And Your unfailing grace.

Natural Disaster:
The mountains break and crumble;
The wind and waves rage on.
In darkened fear we stumble;
Security is gone.
O Father of creation,
Who set in place each stone,
Provide the consolation
We find in You alone.

Our treasures left to plunder,
We face the fearsome sword.
Our walls are torn asunder;
Our dwelling place abhorred.
Restore our sure foundation;
Come bare Your mighty arm.
O Rock of our salvation,
Give peace from dread alarm.

Loss of Life:
Our spirits ache with sorrow,
Beloved life is lost.
Bereft of new tomorrow,
We stagger at the cost.
Speak to our souls, O Savior,
“Take heart; I give you life.
I won the Father’s favor
And rescued you from strife.”

The saints beneath the altar
Cry out, “O Lord, how long?”
In faith, they did not falter
And joined the martyr throng.
The number ever growing—
O Father, grant us rest!
When sainted blood is flowing,
Give strength to stand the test.

Yet Jesus Christ, anointed,
Endured our agony
The moment God appointed
To end sin’s tyranny.
The promise long awaited:
Fulfilled by God’s own Son,
His children reinstated.
The victory is won.

The Church as one is serving
With each new burden shared.
For love without reserving,
The hands and feet prepared.
Through altar, font, and Spirit,
We join the ancient song.
The crown we will inherit,
No more to cry, “How long?”

© 2015 Concordia Publishing House

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