Probably one of the things I struggle the most with God about is his timing, particularly why he doesn’t line his timetable up with mine.
Have you ever prayed like this? Lord, I’ve asked you to do something, and I’m pretty sure it’s consistent with your will, so I don’t understand why you don’t just go ahead and do it. Why make me wait?
Up till now he hasn’t given me the clear explanation I’ve asked for, and I’ve never been certain that I actually sped him up at all, but it never hurts to ask.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you asked him to fix your marriage—after all, he wants you to have a happy marriage, right?—but you and the spouse are barely hanging on.
Maybe you asked him to soften your child’s rebellious heart—he doesn’t like obstinance, right?—but the kid you love so much is still loving life in that far country of disobedience.
Maybe you asked him to kill those cancer cells, fix that heart muscle, or do whatever needs to be done to that miserable autoimmune disorder—he doesn’t like sickness, right?—but the last checkup showed that God either isn’t listening or he’s waiting or he said no . . . again.
By the way, if any of this sounds like faithless whining, read a couple of Psalms—God’s okay with our pouring out our frustrations. He’s big enough to take it.
So how do we respond?
One tact is to put some pious-sounding phrase on it and pretend like that deals with the problem. God’s time is not our time, just trust in the Lord, all things work together for good, and so on.
I know all those are true, but sometimes I’d like something a little more concrete, a little more real, something that actually makes sense of what’s going on right now.
Here’s one possible answer, but be forewarned—it doesn’t make the problem go away, and believing it doesn’t necessarily mean God’s going to fix your deal by this time next Saturday.
Sometimes God puts us in difficult situations and then makes us wait to teach us something he wants us to learn.
That can be a difficult pill to swallow.
But think about it. He told Abraham he would be the father of thousands, then he closed Sarah’s womb while decades passed.
He let Joseph’s brothers betray and sell him, then let Potiphar’s wife falsely accuse him, then let him languish in prison for years.
He kept Hannah from having any children and blessed her husband’s other wife with multiple children, leaving Hannah drowning in despair.
It wasn’t because God intended to ignore Abraham’s prayers in the desert, Joseph’s cries from prison, or Hannah’s tearful requests in the small hours of the night.
That wasn’t it, because God eventually gave Abraham a son, got Joseph out of jail, and gave Hannah a little boy named Samuel.
But he waited and waited and waited . . . then answered. Why?
Maybe this isn’t earth-shattering, but I think this is it: God wants to teach us to trust him—a lesson we learn best in the schoolhouse called struggle.
When stuff’s going our way, we’re slow learners. We get complacent, self-centered, lazy. We look down, not up. We focus on us, not him. We live in the kingdom of me and mine.
When the sun is shining, we don’t learn the lesson we most need to learn.
But then the clouds gather, the wind blows, the rains fall.
And we look up. And learn to trust the One who controls the storm.
This is probably one of the hardest lessons God teaches us, but it’s also one of his most important.
When you’re crying and praying and begging, don’t think God’s turned his back. He’s right where he’s always been, and he cares. In fact, his love might be the reason he hasn’t answered yet.
But what he most wants for us is what’s best for us—which is to learn to look up and not down. And to trust that he’s loving and sovereign and will get it right. Just maybe not as quickly as we’d like.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)