When God Says "No" or "Wait"
During a season when God was planting gospel truths more deeply in my heart and bringing sweeter and richer intimacy with Christ, I was quite bewildered when I began to experience symptoms of intense anxiety.
I pleaded with God to remove the sensation of being unable to breathe. How could I be battling anxiety when I had never known greater peace and joy? Why, suddenly, after years of speaking publicly without a problem, was I barely able to get words out without gasping for breath? In response to my desperate prayers, I heard silence.
In the midst of my physical battle, God was leading our family into an even deeper valley—one that would take many twists and turns with no seeable end in sight. This time, because it was my daughter, her husband, and our four grandchildren that were afflicted in heart-wrenching and perplexing ways, I found myself in a place of suffering that was unfamiliar to me. In quiet desperation, we gathered together with other believers to seek God in prayer. Once again, in spite of many interceding on our behalf, heaven seemed silent.
And yet, in the midst of the waiting and lamenting over what seemed contrary to His goodness, God has been teaching me that, while He may not immediately give us the answers we’re longing for, He is far from absent when His children call upon His name.
The Fruit of Trials
Often, it’s only when we look back to the place we began before we were afflicted that we realize the many ways God has been using the fire of our trial to make us more like Him. Indeed, He is answering the prayers we would have prayed if we knew what God was achieving for us through His delays or denials. For I am learning to trust that God's refusals are always His mercies, even when we don't see any immediate evidence of His kindness. It’s in the darkness of our circumstances that the cross becomes our hope to light the way. Calvary is where Christ proved His love once for all.
You see, Christ didn't save us simply to have us continue chasing after earthly happiness, as good as many of earth’s joys may be. Rather, He wants to give us abundantly more than we ask or imagine! As I reflect on how God has used (and continues to use) trials to give me abundantly more, here’s some of the fruit I can already see:
- When I prayed for rest from stress, anxiety, and fear, God was teaching me to find my rest in Him.
- As I have prayed for relief or strength, God has shown me the sufficiency of His power in my weakness.
- While I was praying for deliverance from troubled breathing, God was training me to see my dependence on Him for every breath.
- When sorrow has threatened to drown me, God has taught me to run to the safety of His promises.
- When I have wanted to rescue my children or grandchildren from heartache and suffering, God reminds me that, in light of His sending His own Son to suffer and die for our redemption, I can trust His loving purposes in the suffering He has allowed in the lives of those I love.
When God withholds answers to things we long for, it is only that He might give us greater joys that point to heaven’s glory: "My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19).
As it turns out, what we think will make us happy and what God knows we need in order to receive the immeasurable riches of His grace are two very different things. By God’s grace, He does answer (although not always in our timing). I rejoiced when He revealed that an underlying hormonal imbalance was causing my anxiety. Slowly, He allowed my health to return.
But while God is the Healer, His ultimate goal for healing comes about as He conforms us to His likeness, teaching us to find our joy and satisfaction in Christ alone, while loosening our grip on this fallen world. And it’s really only when the things we love (and sometimes worship) are threatened that we realize just how much our happiness and contentment is tied to those things.
While We Wait and Pray
While the trials our family is going through have tested my faith severely, I know that you or someone close to you is likely being tested and tried in your own fiery furnace as you plead with God to answer the agonizing cries of your heart. For that reason, I hope to encourage you with what has encouraged me as we wait and pray for God’s deliverance:
1. Examine your beliefs about who God is against the backdrop of the gospel.
Long seasons of suffering reveal wrong thinking we may have about who God is and what we think we deserve. The truth is that our redemption is reason enough to rejoice, no matter how difficult life feels. Renew your mind with truth so that, by testing, you may discern God’s will (Rom. 12:2).
Remember, “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Cor. 4:17–18).
2. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding (Prov. 3:5–6).
Don’t try to make sense of what God has not yet revealed. God’s ways are not our ways. Lean into God’s grace and exercise faith in what you do know from God’s Word and the gospel.
3. Ask God to reveal any sin in your life and to use your suffering to accomplish every purpose He has for your good, the good of others, and His glory.
Because pressure reveals what’s in us, God uses trials to expose sin that’s been otherwise hidden from us. Confess and repent of unbelief, idolatry, and anything else God’s Word and His Spirit reveals.
Ask God to awaken you to those who are suffering around you, comforting them with the comfort God has given you through His Word and prayer (2 Cor. 1:3–11).
4. Make it your aim to know and love Christ more than wanting answers and relief.
Because God didn’t spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, we can trust His love to give us what is best for our eternal joy (Rom. 8:32). God will not withhold anything we need to accomplish the purposes set forth for us before we were born. Let us fix our eyes on the author and finisher of our faith and run this race with endurance with our hope fixed on Christ.
Is there something you've asked God for that He's withholding? Will you choose to trust that His "no" or "wait" is only so He can give you His more perfect "yes"?
By Linda Green
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