I think that there is something else that we need to consider when it comes to our requests. How many times do our requests and our desires for an answer become idolatrous pursuits, taking our focus from God? I think sometimes this is why many of us end up in the furnace of refining, long waits. To purify our hearts, to help us weed out wayward desires and idols, and to help us refocus on what we should be focused on: God!
And most of us don’t do this on our own, not when things are going good and we are getting what we want. Because when things are going our way, we are content to float and to live self-centered, temporally-focused lives. And we think our relationship with Him must be pretty good for things to be going along so nicely. And so He allows us to face “the furnace” of unanswered prayer so that we can discover the selfishness and self-sufficiency and sin in our hearts, so that we learn that we need to be pursuing God - not the answers that we want - and letting Him fill our hearts and lives with what He wants for us.
After a looooong time of waiting, God finally “remembered” us and answered our request for a house. But when we were working through the process of trying to buy it, I was getting very anxious and discouraged. It was a short sale, and the sellers had unexpectedly lost a job and were getting a divorce. So the wait dragged on and on. And I was getting more and more frustrated and antsy.
When we finally got word that the closing date was finalized, I was relieved. Relieved. . . and upset! Because I realized that it had taken so long that I had gotten past the point of being excited about it. I wasn’t overjoyed or thrilled to finally be getting the house that we had wanted for so long; I just wanted to get it over with. And that was upsetting to me. I just wanted it to be the thrilling experience that getting your first home was supposed to be. I felt robbed of joy. And I confessed this discouragement to the Lord one night in a pity-me prayer. (Wow, am I an ingrate or what!)
“Lord, why couldn’t we have gotten this house when I was excited about it and looking forward to it? We had waited so long for it, and I just wanted the chance to be happy about it. But it took so long to finally get it that I’m not excited about it anymore. It’s no longer the ‘fulfillment of the dream’ that it was supposed to be. Now . . . it’s just a house.”
And I heard one word from God. One word that put it all in perspective: “Exactly!” Immediately, I went from griping and feeling sorry for myself to “Ohhhhhh, I get it now!” With that one word, I realized that God was telling me that this wasn’t “my dream” or “my house.” It was His house on loan to us. It was His gift to us, to be used to glorify Him and to be used for His purposes. I wasn’t supposed to hold it up as highly as I did or hold onto it as tightly as I was. I was supposed to hold it loosely, knowing that it was by Him and for Him. It wasn’t a “dream house” for me to covet. It was . . . just a house!
Oh, how many times I do that to myself! Making an idol out of some thing or some answer that I am waiting for. I pray and wait and struggle and plead and doubt and get discouraged. And then, I get to a point where I get so depressed that I can’t pray about it anymore, where I realize that I’m worse off to keep dwelling on this concern or request. And it’s usually then that God shows me that I have lost focus on Him and that I have been consumed with my request. I have been trying to manipulate God with my prayers and my “faith” in Him to answer the way I want or think I need.
And it’s hard to do, but when I get to this point - when the answer I want or when my desire for an answer has become an “idol” - I need to take my focus off of my request and put it back on God. I need to “give up” and give the Lord permission to answer as He will and to work in His timing. Because whatever His answer is, it’s ultimately by Him and for His glory. And so I pray:
“Lord, forgive me for making an idol of this request and for pursuing the answer when I should be pursuing You. I leave it in Your hands now, and I ask You to do as You will and to give me the strength to face this unanswered prayer gracefully. I know You are good and I trust You. I may not have the great faith that I wish I did, but I am putting my pathetic, little faith in You right now. Thank You for being a big God who can see what I can’t see and handle what I can’t handle. I lean on Your strength now. May You be glorified through this.”
Gods knows that we have the ability to do this - the ability to make an idol out of our own lives. And so maybe He allows enough waiting and enough unanswered prayer so that we get to the point where it becomes “just a . . . “ Because when it’s “just a . . . ,” we can hold it more loosely, keep our focus where it belongs, and remember Who deserves the glory.