I pray. And I pray. Nothing happens. What’s going on, God?
Have you ever felt that way? At times, God has answered my prayers almost immediately–BAM! Like the time when we had some extra expenses we hadn’t planned for, and we didn’t know where the money was going to come from to pay for them. The very first thing that came to mind was to go to God with our dilemma. At the dinner table, we petitioned Him for our need; and then we sat down to eat. I don’t think even a full minute had passed, before the phone rang. That phone call was the answer to our prayer. Wow–that was fast work, God!
But then there are those requests that feel more like knocking on a brick wall. Inside the fortress, God is busy being God, and the thick walls around His domain block out my pleas. I can bang my fists until they’re bloody, kneel until I’m bruised, yell until I’m hoarse. It doesn’t do any good. He just doesn’t hear. Or doesn’t care.
No, wait. I don’t really mean that. My mind trusts that God has a plan for everything, and His timing is perfect; but tell that to my heart. Sometimes I feel abandoned and left to myself–no intervention whatsoever. What I need to do, is train my heart to follow my mind.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight” 2 Corinthians 5:7
Walking by faith means that I trust the map. When I’m on a trip to someplace I’ve never been before, my map becomes my best buddy. I’m not good with directions like North, East, South and West. If you tell me to head East, I’ll just give you a blank look, and then ask you to clarify if that would be to the right, or to the left. I navigate using markers such as buildings and signs. But mostly, I use the map.
God’s word is the Map for our lives. Everyone around us might all be doing the same thing, wearing the same clothes, watching the same shows. Should we use them as our gauge? Does the group dictate what’s right or wrong? Is something acceptable if it’s been approved by the crowd? Of course you’re going to say “No,” but I bet that if you think about it, there are some things that you do, not because you’ve thought them out, but because you just grew up that way, or your friends all do it, and you never took the time to analyze whether it really makes sense or not according to God’s word. Without the Bible, all of life is relative. We NEED the map. Imagine if I asked someone for directions, and one person told me to go left, and then a little ahead, another person said, “Oh, that’s just his take on it, but you should really be going right.” How confusing. So, when we don’t understand what’s going on in our lives, and why God doesn’t seem to be paying attention, the best thing to do is to center ourselves on Him and His word. Clarity of thought will eventually bring order to our feelings.
This morning, I read this from the book of Exodus:
“I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee. I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased and inherit the land.” Exodus 23:27-30
The Hebrews had just been miraculously rescued from bondage in Egypt. After passing through the Red Sea, they had come to camp at the foot of Mount Sinai, where God gave the ten commandments to Moses. God also gave many other important laws at that time. Here, God is revealing His plan for the Hebrews to claim the promised land. First, their enemies must be driven away (killed). This is God’s punishment for those people’s idol worship and all the terrible, inhuman practices that were involved with it. The Israelites will not be alone in this task; God Himself will cause a fear of them to fall on all the inhabitants of the land; God Himself will destroy those people, sometimes by using the very nature He created, such as hornets. But He will not do it quickly.
“By little and little” will His plan be executed. You know, I would never do things that way. My way of doing things is the “get it done now” method. But in just “getting it done,” how many things will be left undone because I was in too much of a hurry to be thorough? What kind of loose ends will be left flapping in the breeze? I’m old enough by now to know that sometimes quick fixes end up being fixer-uppers in the end; how much will you have to pay because you didn’t do things right to begin with?
My impatience won’t get me anywhere good, in the end. How reassuring to know that God doesn’t just whip up a solution in a second, but He really puts a lot of preparation into it!–not that He couldn’t do something in a second, but He takes certain precautions to make sure that His plans will turn out the way He wants them to.
If God doesn’t seem to be listening to my prayers, maybe it’s because He’s just doing things “little by little.” If He’s gonna do something, He’s gonna do it right.