Have you ever prayed for something for so long, without seeing results, that you gave up hope? We know Scripture says God hears us when we pray, but why doesn't He always answer our prayers? When we can't see the big picture and we only evaluate what's around us, we can easily become discouraged and defeated. We forget how faithful God is. We forget that, even in the most difficult seasons, He is working all things for our good. We forgo His promises and instead focus on our circumstances.
The health issue...
The unsaved loved ones...
The financial burdens...
The strained relationships...
The list goes on and on. Let's face it, life is difficult. God doesn't always answer our prayers in the way we would expect, on the timeline we would prefer. When we feel like we've prayed the same prayer a million times, and cried rivers of tears waiting for God to come through, it can get downright exhausting. Yet through it all, God has a plan, a good plan, for every one of His Christ-following children.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
You've probably heard this verse before. But do you believe it? Do you truly believe it? I confess, though I say I believe this, I don't always live like it's true. Sometimes I focus more on the trial in front of me than on the promises of my Heavenly Father. This leads to fear in my heart, sadness in my soul, and stolen joy.
I've had a long-standing prayer for a loved one over the last six years. Six years that have felt like an eternity. Prayers and tears as I pleaded with God to please please change this person. Every emotion under the sun. Worry. Anger. Discouragement. Then joy, as I finally saw God beginning to work. And now, my prayer has been answered. Praise Jesus! He is faithful.
As I look back over the years I see moments when I was confident God would come through. But I also remember the moments when I doubted and struggled. The moments when I just had to choose to trust God despite how I felt. Despite what my circumstances looked like.
Through it all He had a plan. He was working every piece of the puzzle together to accomplish His will. Not only in my life, but in ways that would affect many others. I could only see what my limited perspective allowed, yet He was in full control of every detail. The where. The when. The why.
And He taught me some life altering lessons along the way :
God is more interested in changing us than He is in changing our circumstances.
As much as I wanted my specific prayer to be answered, I can look back now and see all of the things God accomplished in my life through the waiting period. He grew me in areas in which I never would have grown if He had answered my prayer right away. He grew me in obedience to His Word. He taught me important lessons that are vital for me to know as I move forward into this new season of my life. He grew me in patience and grace. He refined my character through my trials and difficulties. He didn't change my circumstances right away because He was using them to grow me into the woman He created me to be.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
God tests our hearts during our trials.
In the Old Testament, God used the Israelite's time in the wilderness to humble them and test their hearts. He does the same for us today. While we wait for the fulfillment of His promises and our prayers to be answered, will we obey Him? Will we remain faithful? Through every trial, in humility, we must allow God to reveal to us the sin in our own hearts. He wants to expose what's in our hearts not to condemn us, but so that He can grow us in holiness and obedience.
And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. Deuteronomy 8:2
God strengthens our faith and dependence on Him as we wait.
The Greek Word for faith in the Old Testament conveys the notion of a baby in the arms of her parent. Complete trust. Safety and security. That's how God wants us to feel about Him. He wants us to have complete confidence that He is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. As we persist in prayer, our relationship with God builds. As we seek Jesus first, above all else, our faith grows. We begin to trust Him more and more. As we rely on His strength for whatever it is we face, we will experience His faithfulness and goodness time and time again. God's grace truly is enough.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
God uses our trials to encourage others.
Everything we go through has the potential to comfort someone else. Through my waiting period, I was encouraged by the stories of others who have gone through similar experiences. Stories of God coming through on their behalf lifted me up when I had begun to lose hope. Stories of persistent faith through the most difficult trials brought joy to my heart. God used those stories to comfort me and remind me that, although my prayers hadn't been answered yet, He was working. And now, I can encourage and bring hope to others.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction. so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Are you struggling through a difficult season right now? A season where it feels like your prayers are hitting the ceiling? Don't give up! Keep pressing on. Keep praying. God has not forgotten about you. He sees your tears and hears your cries. He is faithful. While you wait for your prayers to be answered, look for the lessons He is trying to teach you along the way and recount the times He has been faithful in the past. Don't let the enemy get your focus off of the God who is bigger than any of the storms of life you will face. Your breakthrough is coming!