A viewer recently requested me to write a post on this topic, so I'm taking some time this week to discuss something that I've wrestled with over the course of my Christian journey...what to do with expectation. How should we anticipate answers from God?
For many years, I honestly couldn't have come up with a good explanation for how to handle this question. While I've always believed in praying for and petitioning God for things and I always expected Him to fulfill that prayer, my faith in His ability to hear and answer accordingly was shaken in the summer of 2007. As I've detailed before in previous posts, my father suffered a huge health crisis, and the whole thing plunged me into a deep cavern of depression. As my family walked through a year and half of endless doctors appointments, surgeries, hospitals stays, and more...I began to doubt even more that God actually heard our prayers. What if my father died? Did it mean that God's ears were closed to our pleadings? Did it mean that God didn't care? I started to think so...
So often, in our humanness, we think that God's silence indicates that He doesn't hear us. No answer, we take it, means He doesn't care about us anymore. And so we stop waiting for an answer. Even though the Scriptures tell us that God's ear is never deaf to the cries of His loved ones, we begin to walk by our own discernment and conclude that because He has delayed His answer or given an answer different than expected, we have somehow been denied.
Over time, I've come to realize that the only way to come to such conclusions is if our view of God is too small. As soon as we begin to treat the sovereign, holy God as one of us, we begin to go desperately wrong. We start to think that God's judgement is faulty...like our own. That He changes plans...such as we do. That He chooses not to hear us...as we do toward others. God becomes too small. And therefore, we make Him out to be weak and unloving. By our doubts, we strip Him of His sovereignty and declare that He doesn't know what's best...because no answer (or no right answer in our minds) has arrived.
We fail to accept God's purposes because we fail to understand the concept of His overruling providence which has extended throughout human history. We forget the many times He has come to the aid of His people...not a moment too early, or too late. We neglect to call to mind the countless occasions He has turned pain into promise and brought hope out of desperation. We just see our problem...and we want it fixed...right now...in the manner we asked of Him.
See, this is the true problem...we're too focused on ourselves to see God for who He is. Instead of coming to Him in thankfulness, we come to Him with demands. Instead of seeking His will, we ask Him to do our own. Self-love consumes us. Thus, when beseeching God for answers to our petitions, we think we see no answer...because we're blind and our hearts are darkened. What we do not realize is that His answer may come about in an entirely different way...and may produce a far greater "weight of glory" and a miracle beyond our asking than we could hope for. But we may miss it due to our insistence on our own way.
This is what prevented me all those years ago from walking through my dad's health crisis with the right attitude. I fought God's answers because it didn't seem "fair" in my eyes. In hindsight, however, whoever said this world would be fair? Jesus Christ sure didn't. If anything, He promised sufferings and testings of many kinds...because He knows that such are the only means to producing the character of spirit in us that He desires.
In recent months, I've come to see that faith is the difference. Asking big things of God is actually well pleasing to Him. He delights in that we trust Him to accomplish what we cannot. But the test comes afterward...will we leave the request with Him? Will we allow ourselves to accept whatever answer comes with a surrendered heart?
I'm learning that faith believes God not just for what He does...for proof is often in front of me and I forget or miss it constantly...but faith believes God for who He is! Knowing that God "will not withhold any good thing from those whose walk is blameless" (Psalm 84:11), shouldn't this compel me to ask Him for even those things which are impossible and trust that from then it, the whole matter is at His disposal?! I'm learning to pray...to pray hard and deep. To pray through things and ask God to move big. But I'm also learning to accept the silence as opportunity to trust. To even accept the un-liked answer when it comes, and know that God has a better outcome in mind than the one I envisioned.
The times of waiting, the times of silence, the answers not-given, or the ones un-liked, are not evidences of God's lack of care. Rather, they show His care in a far greater way. His denials are proof that He knows what's best for us better than we do...and who are we to question Him?!
If you're wearing thin on your knees because you feel like your pleading isn't heard, let me encourage you with this: just maybe He's not after your comfort but rather your conversion. Maybe His goal isn't to change your circumstances but to change your heart. Perhaps He knows that you will gain greater faith if He keeps you under trial than if He were to remove your affliction swiftly as you ask. Do not let His silence or His delay deter you from trusting Him. He is too good a God to let His loved ones alone. His love and grace will be given to you in measure for each moment and, when His answer does arrive in time, may you choose to bless Him for His goodness...even if things don't turn out as you hoped.