The illusion of God's delay


Why is it that God delays? I have thought about this a lot the last several years, as we have gone down a long and often very hard path seeking God’s plan for the next phase of our lives. Does God not care about the situation we are in? Does he not see our desperation? Does he not hear our prayers?

The other night, I was reading that extraordinary story in the Gospels where the disciples were straining at the oars for hours, making little progress. All of a sudden, Jesus showed up, walking across the waters. They took him into the boat, and by supernatural intervention, they instantly reached the other side of the lake.

Like so many Bible stories, we read this one with the end in mind. We already know what’s going to happen. But we forget that those guys in the boat had no idea whether Jesus was going to show up for them or not. They were almost certainly desperate. They were probably near the end of their strength. They were likely terrified of drowning. And you can be sure they had been praying.

But their prayers had not been answered.

What do you think they were thinking? Probably most of the same things we are thinking when God fails to resolve our crisis when we think he should.

But the question we should be asking ourselves is not “Why is God delaying?” but “What is God doing?”

Sometimes God is taking the extra time to bring elements of his plan for us together which are at present unseen to us. The whole world does not revolve around you or me. Other people and circumstances are involved too, and have to be brought into the picture.

Sometimes he is saving us from things we at first asked for. How many times have you thanked God he did not give you that job, that relationship, that accommodation, that place of ministry you asked him for?

Often, he is simply changing and refining us as we pray, because in the process we are drawn closer to him through our seeking of him. Hopefully we discover it is more important to seek God than the thing we are asking for.

For all these reasons, we then look back and thank the Lord that it worked out the way it did.

The fact is that God does not delay at all. The word “delay” implies that something that should have taken place now does not take place until later. But God’s timing is as perfect as all of his ways. What seems to us to be delay is actually God working out his perfect plan for us.

So if you are caught up right now in what to you is a very much in-your-face delay, may I suggest you follow the advice James gave to those who were experiencing the same kind of thing: ask God for wisdom (James 1:5). Ask God what he is doing in your heart and circumstances. Ask him for patience. Cast yourself on him. Cry out to him. But don’t give up.

Because the very point at which you feel like giving up is often the moment God breaks through. When we are at our most desperate is when he receives the most glory for what he does, because everyone knows it is him, not us who has done it.

And when God moves, he often does so with great speed. Isaiah put it this way: “I am the Lord; in its time I will do it quickly” (Isaiah 60:22).

I read that verse the other night. And I read it just at the point where God had intervened in our lives in an extraordinary way, which in a matter of weeks resolved issues we had been facing for years.

More of that next week…