There is a famous country song, made a hit by Garth Brooks. The chorus goes, “….I thank God for unanswered prayers, remember when you’re talking to the man upstairs, just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care…”
I do not agree with this song’s assessment of prayer and God answering our prayers. Instead I subscribe to this belief, God always answers our prayers. Always. In one of three ways.
- He says yes.
- He says no.
- He says wait.
Since the third option is the hardest one for us to handle, this is where this blog will pick up here. Harder than a no? Yes. No is definite. Usually an indication that what we are petitioning God for is not within His will for our lives and/or not within His standard of righteousness. Wait, on the other hand, is defined in this case as either, “no, not right now” or “yes, just not right now”? Wait can seem like a no.
Why would God say, wait? Because sometimes what we are asking for right now, though within His will, within His parameters of right and wrong, we are not yet equipped to handle.
Suppose, for example, as a child we fall in love with missions. Especially foreign missions. We pray then that God will send us to the mission field. We are earnest in our prayers. We are praying for something God would certainly find to be right. We are eager to begin.
Why would God say, “Wait”? Common sense tells us that God is not going to send a child into the mission field unprepared. A child has not yet learned enough skills to get through the maze of life yet. So to be placed in the middle of another way of life, without ability to earn a living, secure housing, connect with people they know they can trust is beyond their maturity and capabilities. While no one can discredit the ability of children to be a part of mission work with adults, it is not common practice to put them in the mission field alone.
However, when the request is not as cut and dry our ability to understand gets stretched. What if the prayer request is to marry the person God intends for you to marry? Or to go back to school? Get a job that will enable you to provide more for your family? What if the prayer request is for complete healing of a spouse’s difficult to diagnosis disease or illness?
We pray. We are within God’s will. Healing is possible. Yet, it does not happen right away. Days tickle into months, months become a year and you find yourself on the way to a second year. The long-term disability insurance dries up, returning to work is still impossible, health insurance is canceled, life is turned upside down and the worst part is your spouse is still sick. One way or the other your spouse’s healing is within God’s will, so why would He say, wait?
Is it to teach us to trust Him regardless of the circumstances? Is it to remind us to be thankful always, during the good times and the harder, bad times? Perhaps He says wait because He wants to use this time in your life to draw other people to Him? Or to put it another way, maybe God is waiting because when He shows up He wants to show out.
We all have a hard time with the wait answer. For myself, the hardest time ever has been during my husband’s illness. The example detailed previously. God has said, wait.
Yes, I have railed against the Heaven’s because God has not said yes. I question why. I cry. I have had days when all I can think of ways to protect my family and throw in the towel at the same time. If God is not going to say, yes and say it right away how can He love me, I ask? If He does not love me enough to say yes, why does He not love my husband enough? Or our daughter? What about the crippling loneliness that creeps into our bones, into the finest of crevices in our souls that is not only overwhelming but unspeakable?
Maybe knowing the why God says to wait is not the important thing yet. Maybe the answers I should be seeking are what is He teaching me (and my family) during this time? What are those who are seated ring side in our lives seeing in us as we go through it?
Why God is still saying wait to our request for my husband’s healing I do not know. But I do know He is affirming that answer, right now. None of the possible severe consequences are off the table. I am well aware of that too.
So far though, our lives are a testimony to what is required of us when God says, “Wait”. I pray we are not failing Him.