"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV)
Do you ever envy God's answers to someone else's prayers?
I remember almost choking on the words, "I am so happy for you!" in response to the breaking news that friends of ours from North Carolina had sold their house after it had been on the market for twenty days.
To them it had been a long twenty days. Houses were normally snatched up quickly in their area. In our shaky Michigan economy, however, it takes a bit longer. In fact, on the day she announced that her home now had a "sold" sign in the front yard, we turned another page on our calendar — marking how long our house had been for sale. Not twenty days, but twenty months to be exact.
Although I was genuinely thrilled for my friend, I was also a tad green with jealousy.
I call this answer envy. It is that "poor me" mentality that creeps into my heart when God answers someone else's prayers more quickly than mine. Or when He responds to them with a "yes" but His answer seems to be a "no" for me, or at least a "not right now."
I've had my fair share of answer envy outbreaks over the years, at all stages of life.
As a child, I was envious of the kids who came from two-parent homes while I resided in a family torn apart by divorce. No matter how hard I folded my little hands and prayed to God, my daddy didn't come back to us.
In high school, it was other girls' good looks, cute clothes or even cuter boyfriends that I longed for. Instead, I was granted average looks and wore department store blue-light-special fashions. And, as sports editor of our school paper, although I was every guy's pal, I was usually nobody's gal.
In college, I envied those whose prayers for a knight in shining armor, complete with sparkly diamond ring, were answered while I remained single. Once married, I struggled with miscarriage and dashed dreams of motherhood. So, for five long years, I slapped a smile on my face to mask my broken heart and attended yet another pale pink or baby blue church shower.
Over the years I have discovered that the cure for answer envy is not always easy because I must play an active role in my own healing.
What I need is a shift in perspective. When I "call to God" as encouraged in today's key verse, I must trust that He will keep His word. He will tell me "great and unsearchable things" that I do not know. Sometimes those things are the answers to my request. However, do you know what those great and unsearchable things more often are? They are the reasons He seems not to be answering my original request!
So, instead of only begging God to "sell my house" or "take away my pain" or "fix my kid," I need also to ask myself some questions. Questions like, "What is my Creator trying to teach me that I might never learn if He were to suddenly pluck me out of this situation?" Or, "What character qualities is He trying to grow in me? Patience, trust, compassion, contentment?"
Not available in quick microwave form, the cure for answer envy must be cultivated moment by moment.
We must believe that God will answer. He will clearly say "yes," "no," or "not right now." He is able, ready and willing to answer our prayers — here is the catch — as He sees fit and to grow us to be more like His Son in the process.
It took two years until our "for sale" sign was finally replaced with a "sold" banner. It was a long stay in God's waiting room. However, I now know this to be true: I must not merely seek the answer to my prayer. Instead, I must seek a deeper relationship with the One who gives the answer.
Dear Lord, thank You for Your perfect plans... Your perfect timing... and the perfect way Your development happens in my times of waiting. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Think back on a prayer request or two from your past where God seemed not to be answering. What else did you learn about Him as you waited for His reply?
List any personal prayer requests you currently have on a piece of paper or in a journal. As you continue walking through life in the next few months, next to your requests, chronicle all of the peripheral blessings that come from the waiting.
What category do my prayers to God fall into most often — help me, show me, rescue me or change me?
Psalm 38:15, "I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God." (NIV)
Romans 8:25, "But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." (NIV)
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