As much as we wish it were otherwise, life has no easy answers to our struggles. Oh, I know, I know . . . God is the Answer. But what happens when the Answer doesn’t answer?
Because God can stop our pain, we think He should. So we pray. And pray.
But nothing happens.
That’s what occurred with Mary and Martha. They sent a message to Jesus that their brother Lazarus lay sick. But instead of immediately traveling to Bethany, Jesus stayed right where He was beyond the Jordan River. When He finally did arrive, Lazarus had been dead four days.
In other words, Jesus had taken His sweet time showing up.
From what happened next, I see 3 lessons to help us understand why Jesus waits to answer our prayer.
As the ancient International Highway cut its way though Israel, it divided three ways through the Mount Carmel range. The eastern fork passed through a valley named after the town of Dothan.
On the day Joseph’s brothers dropped him in the pit at Dothan, neither they nor Joseph gave one thought about how that decision would affect eternity. It was all about the here and now. But in hindsight, both Joseph and his brothers saw God’s hand in the events and interpreted them accordingly.
Hindsight provides insight. It always can.
In our lives we can get so caught up in today’s issues that they blind us to tomorrow’s purpose for them.
Interestingly, Dothan appears only twice in the Bible. In both places, we learn how to see near and far in our spiritual lives.
Sometimes it seems the Lord leads us into a life that can’t possibly be His will. What started with such promise has become such a challenge. It’s tough to know what to do next.
What do you do when the life God has promised you looks nothing like the life God has given you?
God had promised a son to Sarai and her husband, Abram. And yet at the same time, God prevented conception. This is the will of God? Go figure.
What God said is a lesson we need to hear.
Sometimes the only thing worse than God refusing to give us what we want occurs when He gives us want we want. Many years ago, our young daughter had only one thing on her mind.
She knew we planned an Easter egg hunt, and she asked if she could eat lots of candy on Easter. We told her no, but she kept after us, day after day. Easter came and she continued to plead. So we decided to let her learn by experience what she refused to learn by instruction. We let her eat as many little chocolate eggs as she wanted.
That night was pitiful.
“Oooooh, mommy, my tummy hurts!” She had learned by experience what she refused to learn by instruction. My toddler’s lesson gets repeated in the life of most of us adults.
But it doesn’t have to.
An interest in my stepdad’s guitar at age 15 sparked an interest God has used to guide my life. I’m sure God works in a similar way with you. In fact, I know He does.
(Photo: By Pisethinfo. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
More than 30 years ago, I started playing songs on the guitar by John Denver, Jim Croce, Don Francisco, Gordon Lightfoot, and Dan Fogelberg.
I was hooked. I lived and breathed with the instrument. In a few years, I had written more than 100 of my own songs. It seemed this is what God wanted me to do with my life. I decided to pursue the dream of becoming a Christian artist.
- I majored in music (classical guitar) from North Texas State University (now UNT).
- I attended Dallas Theological Seminary so that I could learn to write theologically sound songs.
- I had an influential person with connections in Nashville who promised to introduce me to the right people.
I was ready. Cue the lights. Then God uplugged my guitar.
Playing guitar for all these years has taught me more than music. It has taught me these 3 lessons.
If we knew what God knows, we would choose to wait for His timing rather than push Him to act now. God made His creatures to live in dependence on the Creator. As such, we wait for the provision.
(Photo via ooomf.com, by Tyssul Patel)
As much as we hate it, dependence demands waiting. Refusing to wait amounts to independence and even rebellion from the one who created us.
Insisting on instant gratification (even for good things) minimizes and overlooks the infinite worth of God’s sovereignty—a wisdom that sees beyond the next five minutes. Or the next five years.
Are you waiting for God to do something in your life?
If you knew what God knows, here’s what you would do.
I recently went to China with colleagues from Insight for Living. What a vast and beautiful country—and so much potential for ministry. While there, several of us got to visit the Great Wall.
(Photo: By Hao Wei from China. Flickr. CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
I was amazed at how vigilant the wall builders were to ensure the safety of their country against potential enemies. (See some of my pictures below from my Instagram Feed.) Of course, history reveals that a guard allowed the enemy to enter through a gate and compromise the wall’s security. 1500 miles of wall compromised by one traitor in the gate.
In our spiritual lives, we have that same traitor.
My first high school had round buildings with pie-shaped classrooms. The hallways circled the buildings’ perimeters. The campus looked as if spaceships had landed in San Antonio.
Students from other high schools referred to ours as “The Round School for Squares.” Nice, huh?
For fun, we would play a joke on new students who asked for directions: “Yeah, just walk down the hall and turn left at the corner.” They would circle for hours.
Sometimes that’s how it feels in our walk with God. He points the direction and we walk and walk and walk. But we never turn a corner.
You’ve probably noticed, but very few people attain stardom status in life. That’s probably a good thing. Solomon’s words, “money is the answer to everything,” come from an earthly perspective (Ecc. 10:19).
Among the rich and famous, so few find satisfaction—even in their success.
For some reason, it seems uncommon for exceptional lives to handle success well. Perhaps because success ranks just as much a test of character as does poverty. Maybe more.
True success is not a result of giftedness, but of character. (Tweet that.)
Have you ever considered the blessing of being average?
It may surprise you.
I recently upgraded my iPhone and had a problem transferring the data from my old backup to the new iPhone. So I called Apple.
As I talked to the tech during the data transfer, he really wanted to screen-share so he could see what was happening on my computer, but the connection wouldn’t work.
Because he couldn’t see my screen, he continued to ask me every minute or so what the status was on the progress bar. Finally, I said something like, “Look, asking me about it isn’t going to speed up the process. Feel free to work on something else, and I’ll let you know when it’s done.”
Did he think when it was done I would say nothing?
Then it struck me. We do the same with God.