When we go through various trials, we find ourselves on our knees more. We pray and pray for God to get us through or out of the current difficulty. These trails can also present themselves in the form of longing for something that we don’t have yet.
I knew a couple who prayed for sixteen years for a child and then they finally became pregnant.
I know of a woman who prayed for a husband for well over twelve years. Finally, God graced her with a wonderful man.
I prayed for my uncle to find salvation for nine years and finally he received Jesus as His Lord.
In all of these situations, God was doing a work of spiritual maturity in the lives of those who prayed and waited.
Whether it is a child, a spouse, freedom from debt, salvation for a loved one, or an illness that needs healing, praying for these over a long period can be a trial in itself. Waiting on God to answer can create doubt as we second guess whether what we are asking for is His will; it can even cause us to lose faith if we are not careful. Waiting for our prayers to be answered can be exhausting and can cause great anxiety. I believe the reason for our exhaustion and anxiety is due to our lack of focus on the right thing.
James tells us, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).
Sometimes when God does not immediately answer our prayers, He is maturing our faith. He is making our belief in Him stronger; so that we do not lack the ability to lean on His understanding fully. But I’m not convinced that maturity in our faith is the only reason.
The tension is this, if we receive what we ask for too soon, we may forget the Lord and ruin our life. On the other hand, if we have to wait too long for what we are asking God for, we may lose faith, forget the Lord and ruin our life. Being the good Father that He is, God is well aware of this tension. Because He knows the pitfalls we can fall into that we don’t always see, He knows the timing that works best for His children. The answers to the prayers we ask are more about God developing us than about pleasing us.
Notice what James says, “the testing of your faith produces endurance…endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” What is this maturity that God is doing in our life? What is it that He wants to complete? While faith is one of the things He works on in us, He also develops us in practical ways that equip us for that next stage in our life. Like marriage.
When a man longs for a wife, it can be all that is on his mind. It is like he has tunnel vision and he cannot think of anything else. The problem is when the longing for her supersedes his wish to love God with his all; he unintentionally places a burden on the woman he is seeking. He thinks of her as the one who will meet his need for total satisfaction and happiness. Sadly, she cannot carry this burden. But God can and wants it.
Until this man can fully rely on God for his satisfaction and happiness, he will wait for that woman in his life; especially if he is praying to God for her. God wants more for this man. He wants to equip him to love a woman with a proper devotion, one that serves her not one that serves himself. Only God can be this man’s all in all. Until this maturity is complete, I believe that God will delay the answer to his prayer.
In the meantime, the man endures. This endurance perfects him for God’s answer. Is it easy to wait? No. However, if this man understands the purpose behind the waiting, he will seek maturity more than a wife.
Whatever the scenario is in our life, the maturity process is the priority on God’s agenda. When we can get on board with God’s purpose to complete and perfect us, then and only then will we see answers to our prayers.
How do we know when we have reached that maturity? It’s not the answer to the prayer that tells us this. It’s when our wish for what we are praying for dims in comparison to our desire to please God. Jesus needs to be more to us and not what we are longing for in our life.