For the last several years, a friend of mind has been praying for a door to open. While she waits, her life is on hold—career, education, family—it all hinges on God’s answer. And until now, God didn’t say no, but He didn’t say yes either. In fact, He didn’t say anything at all.
Last week, she finally received an answer to her prayers. Amid the joy and excitement of God’s “Yes!” there’s the nagging question of why did God wait so long? From our perspective, He could have answered years ago. Even if He wanted her to wait, it would have been a huge help to know how long the wait was going to be. If you’re a planner, like I am, you understand.
Instead, God was silent while my friend prayed… and prayed… and prayed….
Why does God do that to us? It’s tempting to think that He just doesn’t care. He’s busy elsewhere, and doesn’t have time to answer our request. Or He somehow takes a sadistic pleasure in watching us struggle. It reminds me of a parent telling a whining child, “Buck up! Adversity builds character!” Sometimes, we don’t want character.
As I’ve grown and learned over the years, I’ve finally gained enough perspective to have a different understanding.
When our children were very small and just learning who God is and what He’s like, they would pray and often God would answer right then and there. It was amazing to watch. God, please find my lost toy. And suddenly we’d know just where to look. God, please heal mommy’s cold. And I’d wake up feeling fine the next morning.
I’ve seen similar timing with other new believers, older in years but babies in the faith. As my husband and I learned—if you want a parking spot in a crowded city, ask a new Christian to pray for one!
As we grow and mature, God stretches us. Instead of instant answers, we have to wait days, weeks, or months. Our faith muscles get a bit of a workout. Sometimes God says no, and we learn that even then, He still loves us.
Waiting on God teaches us patience. While we all laugh at the idea that asking God for patience is dangerous, it’s true that the only way we can learn is by practicing.
Not only does waiting build our faith, it encourages us to stay close to God. When all our perceived needs are met, we think we can manage life on our own. But when there’s something we’re praying our hearts out about, we realize how dependent we really are.
Of course, God may have a very good reason of His own for making us wait. Perhaps we have to wait for circumstances to change—it just isn’t time yet. Or maybe what we think we want isn’t His best for us. I love Garth Brooks’ song, “Unanswered Prayers,” about his earnest but unanswered prayer that God would give him a girl he liked in high school, only to discover that God had a better wife for him waiting in the wings.
Sometimes we go through hard times not so much for our own benefit, but rather to demonstrate God’s character to those who are watching us. At one point when Pete and I were yet again on the verge of financial disaster, I asked God why, after all we’ve learned, we were still struggling with funding for our ministry. Was there more He wanted me to learn? To my surprise, He answered that this time He wanted others to see how we depended on Him as He provided for us. The lesson was primarily for them.
My friend has been a believer for more than two decades. Waiting on God for these past few years has been hard, but I can see how she’s grown. She’s closer to God. She trusts Him more. And a close friend of hers has a new understanding that we can plan everything out, and do everything “right”—but God is the one who is really in control. At this point, I’m pretty sure she’d agree that these were all worth the wait.
I think the best point you make here is, “Sometimes we go through hard times not so much for our own benefit, but rather to demonstrate God’s character to those who are watching us.”
Most folks don’t look for grandstand miracles; they look at everyday us to see how the Christian life works out in real time.
If you might be interested, years ago I wrote a book (long out of print) called “Why Don’t I Get What I Pray For?” It has been re-issued under the title “I’m Confused About Prayer” at http://www.bluefishbooks.info . For the next week, I’ve put it as a free pdf e-book in the sidebar of my blog.
That’s beside the point, I’m glad your friend got a satisfactory answer to her long praying.
But I think you hit the nail on the head in saying that God uses us as floor models to demonstrate His eternal ways in the here and now.
Seems we often forget that possibility. I’ve watched a number of friends go through very difficult medical problems. God didn’t answer our prayers for healing in the way we would have liked. But in the end, a number of people put their faith in God because of the way our friends handled adversity.
Someone once said that if we know God then even when we don’t understand we can still trust. Seems that God’s timing is never my timing, and God’s ways are rarely my ways. Thanks for a real and honest post on prayer. Great thoughts!