Our eight month old is almost ready to crawl. He sees his brother’s toys scattered on the floor and wants to taste and experience all of them! So he sits and stretches as far as his arms can stretch, trying to reach those delicious looking trains, cars and trucks. Often I scoot one over so that he can play with it, but sometimes I let him struggle. He’s kind of a laid back baby and I know he’s going to have to be motivated to actually make the effort to crawl. So I try not to make it too easy for him. I let him stretch and grunt and he looks at me imploringly, as if to say, “Help me, mommy!” I certainly have the power to help him, end his struggle and relieve his turmoil, but sometimes I wait, just a few minutes to give him the chance to try to get it on his own.
Watching this whole process one day, I realized how similar this is to our struggles with prayer, God and faith. There is something we want, badly, but it remains just beyond our reach. We’ve prayed and prayed for it and we daydream about the relief possessing it will bring and yet we still don’t have it. Sometimes we get mad. God, after all, has the power to just give it to us and end our agony. But He doesn’t. It feels like He’s just watching us stretch and struggle, get worn out, frustrated and depressed. And yet, there’s something that He’s after. I want Benjamin’s muscles to develop, so I have to let him physically struggle sometimes. I want him to grow strong, confident and capable, so I can’t just scoot everything over to him that he wants, as soon as he wants it. Oh, I’m a softy, and I can’t bare the sad face too long, but I do bare it longer than he’d like!
The times that God has tarried in my life, there’s always been something that He wanted to accomplish; it’s never just struggling for struggling’s sake. Years ago, when I was asking for a mate, among other things, God wanted me to let go of my “right” to have a husband, and He wanted Marvin to mature spiritually. Now, as we’ve been asking him to sell our house, we’ve learned to live on less, prioritize and live more financially disciplined lives. God may have other reasons for tarrying, but those are the things we’ve pinpointed as we’ve waited and trusted. He’s not just withholding to make us suffer. He waited four days to come and raise Lazarus because He had something in mind, not because he wanted to torment Mary and Martha. In God’s economy, the tears are worth the outcome.
God has compassion on us when we struggle and He’ll come and comfort, but He may not give in and give us what we want, just because we’re frustrated. There is a reason for the wait. Trust Him. The good thing is, I know how much Benjamin can bare. I know when he just can’t stretch anymore and I provide relief. Similarly, God knows how much we can handle. And even if it isn’t time to actually give us that thing we want so badly, He knows just how to comfort and encourage us, so that we can keep waiting with some joy and hope in our hearts.