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"How Long?" When Answers to Prayer Don't Seem to Arrive
by Cate Russell-Cole
2/07/2016 / Christian Living
"O LORD, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble?" Psalm 10:1
One morning, as I was sick and faced with a scary, roulette wheel decision on which medication would or wouldn't work, I felt exactly like David did in Psalm 6. Worn out, scared and hopeless. I prayed for wisdom and no answer came. Feeling desperate I thought, "well, if David didn't always receive answers when he so desperately needed it, then there's no hope for me to get one." I don't even begin to compare with the honour David has in the Lord's eyes, but to my surprise, God answered me. A calm voice said, "sometimes I can't give answers."
I survived the problem without damage and began to explore why God couldn't answer. The more I thought about it, the simper the answer was... then the more complex it became. "How long" is a God-sized issue with a God-sized answer! There are so many factors which may stop His answering us in the manner we want:
- God won't stomp on our free will;
- His actions are stopping us from being greedy or stupid in some way;
- the timing is wrong;
- we need this to grow;
- there is a better plan in God's heart, than the rescue we long for;
- other's free will's hijacks or affects us and God can't override that; or
- to get to the right answer involves multiple decisions and/or steps, which have to be done in the right way, in the right time. We can't just jump to a final result and lastly,
- we have to learn obedience to the Lord: He doesn't come when we call, it's the other way around. (This is probably one of the reasons David had frequent trouble getting answers, he had to learn which King had the highest status and that he had to wait on God, God could not be summoned to him.)
If you were to chart the whole path of any event, particularly those involving more than one person, your brain would spin.There is too much information. Overload and confusion would be imminent. Thankfully, God takes care of all the behind the scenes issues, that we can't handle. We can't access the full data which He plans with and we shouldn't try to.
Putting this issue simply, firstly the Lord has to allow us free will. He aids and comforts us as much as possible, (or as much as He is able to help our stubborn heads and hearts;) but we are meant to stand on our own two feet and grow up. We have to make our own choices and mistakes. So that is one reason why He may abstain from an instant, heroic rescue. If He stepped in too often and gave us every answer, we'd soon complain about losing our rights, being treated like incapable children, or not being given space to grow.
Secondly, behind the scenes are many complex factors that influence His ability to answer. There may be a simple solution, but if we are told it at the wrong time, then it would fail. As I said above, getting to the point where the answer is effective may take multiple decisions, a series of steps, timing, and/or change/s made by other parties (who also have their own free wills.) This is where the complexity really kicks in.
Thirdly, what God is doing can be incredibly obvious, we are just too anxious or biased towards our desires, to see it.
When we get stressed, we see only one factor: our need and how long it's taking to meet it. All the machinations of what's happening in the background, from all sides... and what God really is doing to effectively deal with it, is safely hidden from us. Please note the word safely.
Life has enough troubles. Bless God that He has set limits on what we have to deal with.
God knows the answers to every problem in an instant; technically, before it even happened. He knows where you need help the most and will be working on the very best possible answer, you just can't see it. So we stress out, as David did many times.
"O LORD, do not stay far away!
You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!" Psalm 22:19
So next time you feel abandoned by the Lord, remember, what is happening in the background would probably confuse you and create additional headaches. Apparent silence should never be taken to imply indifference. It is a matter of timing, God making the most of the best choices and acting with loving care.
Take your worries to the Lord, ask for His lead in what to do and let Him take control (within the free will boundaries He has set). He'll move all the pieces into place that He can and do a better job than you expect. Then you will be able to join David in saying, "In panic I cried out, "I am cut off from the LORD!" But You heard my cry for mercy and answered my call for help." Psalm 31:22
Additional "How Long" Psalm Moments - You Are Not Alone!
1. "O LORD, how long will You forget me? Forever?
How long will You look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
Turn and answer me, O LORD my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don't let my enemies gloat, saying, "We have defeated him!"
Don't let them rejoice at my downfall.
But I trust in Your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because You have rescued me.
I will sing to the LORD
because He is good to me." Psalm 13
2. "How long, O Lord, will You look on and do nothing?
Rescue me from their fierce attacks.
Protect my life from these lions!
Then I will thank You in front of the great assembly.
I will praise You before all the people.
Don't let my treacherous enemies rejoice over my defeat.
Don't let those who hate me without cause gloat over my sorrow.
They don't talk of peace;
they plot against innocent people who mind their own business.
They shout, "Aha! Aha!
With our own eyes we saw him do it!"
O LORD, You know all about this.
Do not stay silent.
Do not abandon me now, O Lord." Psalm 35:17-22
3. "Have compassion on me, LORD, for I am weak.
Heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.
I am sick at heart.
How long, O LORD, until You restore me?
Return, O LORD, and rescue me.
Save me because of Your unfailing love." Psalm 6:2-3
For more information on King David, please have a meander through the King David Project Facebook page, our web site and our blog, "Masada Rain." The blog houses many useful resources on studying, David plus bits and pieces of information which don't neatly fit into article form. Please ignore dates and use the search feature to find what you want. The web site has resources on David's family tree, life and the Psalms. All content is creative commons and non-profit. Sharing of the project's work would be deeply appreciated.
Masada Rain Blog: https://masadarain.wordpress.com
The project web site: http://cateartios.wix.com/kingdavidproject
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/fromdespairtodeliverance
This article by Cate Russell-Cole is under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Written in Australian English.
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