If you are struggling because you seem to be missing God, do me a favor: Sit down, be quiet for a few minutes, and don’t move. Don’t be rigid, but rest.
God Himself has been watching your every move, ready to meet you, but unable to get your attention long enough for you to consciously slow down and move in to hear what He has to say to you.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes God can feel far away even when we have been peaceful in our anticipation of His revelation. But, if that’s where you are, and you’re growing impatient, know that the story isn’t over. You can’t write up your disappointment report until God moves, speaks or reaches out to you.
The question is not, will God respond? but will I like how He responds? God never fails to return the attention we give Him, but we must learn how to interpret the aspects of that return.
If God takes longer than we think He should to answer us, is He wrong? If He says no, when every happiness in the world pointed to yes, has He deprived us unfairly? If He says yes when we were desperate for Him to relieve us with a calm no, has He lost His compassion; can we no longer trust Him to do good on our behalf?
Before you try to make those judgments, I wonder if you have realized that God never said that any of those things were not good. And if I may now go one step further, I am curious if you know that He is adamant that they are good so long as He has chosen to give you this response to prayer. This is true because everything that God does is good — absolutely every time.
Now consider that God grants half of your wish: you ask for peace and happiness and He gives you peace. Do you judge His response as soon as it comes, or do you turn to the Lord in a spirit of humble submission and offer the Lord your worship even in your momentary ignorance of the beauty in His plans?
Let me tell you that God wants the latter, but not just for His own sake. Take this into account:
More than anything else, our prayers teach us what we value and show us where we need to grow. He is working to make clear to us, in every instance that we seek Him, just how we are missing the heart of God. But He does this not for the purpose of finding fault with us. He does everything with the intent of bringing us closer to Him, and bringing our character into greater conformity with His.
This is not a punishment, but an opportunity in everything we do to be like God and full of God. There could be no greater gift: God, when He is known for who He truly is, proves in us, that He is nothing short of everything we live to know and experience.
Do we vaunt pride more than patience; do we value power over persistence; do we seek prestige to the neglect of persecution? Then we are missing the point of living, the object of seeking God.
No matter what He says, I want to be able to show off God’s answers to my prayer, especially the ones that show His glory in contrast to my sin. For, how can He appear more faithful, more purposeful, more compassionate and merciful if I deny that I need all these things? And if I do not realize and proclaim that I am in debt to Him in all these ways, I will absolutely revert to believing that I am deserving of everything that comes to me from Him — and then, even more than that.
So, the keys to hearing, and more importantly relating, to God are resting and waiting. And the way we rest and wait is summed up perfectly in James 1:4:
But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Recognize that God’s ways are above your own. Rather than grumbling, use your responsive efforts to praise Him for that — knowing that the end will make clear His wisdom that is mysteriously in play now. Let us not meet that end and be grieved that God’s only offering from us was anxiety and displeasure.
It is impossible to have regrets with God when we trust Him. When we rely on Him with our whole being, we will neither look back with disappointment at His behavior toward us, nor remorse for our behavior toward Him.