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"Yes, but wait."

When we pray for help from trouble or relief from pain, one response God may give us is “YES, BUT WAIT.” In these instances, God does fix the problem, but his timing doesn’t exactly match ours. In fact, his timing may seem to be way, way off from our point of view.

Look at Abraham. He longed for a son, an heir. This was a source of great grief and pain to him. He brought his concern to the Lord and the Lord promised that a son from his own body would be his heir.

And then there was a wait. A long wait. A wait of about twenty-five years.

A wait as he and Sarah grew older and older, and less and less able physically to have a child. In the meantime, he and Sarah took things into their own hands and Abraham fathered Ishmael by Sarah’s maid Hagar. And still God said, “Wait.”

Waiting is hard. Waiting means the pain stays around. Waiting means the questions remain. The wondering if God will come through.

When God says, “Yes, but wait,” it would be nice to think that the promise of healing would make the hurt go away in the meantime. But, it doesn’t. Usually, in fact, we don’t know that God has said, “Yes, but wait.” To us, it may seem like he has not answered us at all. Or we might think that he has said, “No.” But even if he assures us that he will answer our prayer, the waiting is hard.

So why does God sometimes ask us to wait?

Perhaps because he wants to see if we will live in hope or despair. Romans 4:18-22 records that Abraham never gave up hope:

“In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness.”

Abraham lived in hope. He believed God’s promise. He held firm, year after year after year.

I tend to give up too quickly. Perhaps it comes from our instant-gratification society. Perhaps it’s just my own impatience. My own lack of faith. I beg and plead. Then I get angry and pout. I get discouraged and eventually embrace despair.

And God still says, “Wait.”

God is willing to wait. To wait through our impatience. To wait through our self-centeredness. To wait through our anger and fury and temper tantrums. To wait through our self-pity and despair. To wait until we have gotten well and truly past ourselves so that we finally turn to him – not in apathetic resignation, but in peace and acceptance and hope that says, “God can – and if he chooses to, he will. In his time, not in mine. To his glory, not to mine. For his purposes, not mine.”

And then, God answers. He answered Abraham with a son named Isaac, a son named laughter. And when we learn the lesson of waiting, we, too, experience God’s final “Yes” with laughter and rejoicing. We see the fruit of our hope. The harvest of joy that we sowed with tears.

But what if we don’t accept God’s sovereign “Wait”? We grow resentful. Angry. Rebellious. We tap our toes and scowl at the divine delay. And if God then does choose to give his “Yes,” we respond with a sullen, “It’s about time!” or an apathetic, “Fine, but it’s too late now, anyway. Whatever.”

This is the danger of not working in concert with God. If we don’t work with God, we get none of the benefits of the answer. We won’t experience true healing within.

For this “Yes, but wait” response of God, if we work with God in the waiting, seeking to come into alignment with his purpose, to trust his timing, to submit to his leading, then we can respond with joy and gratitude – and our joy and gratitude will be all the greater because our souls will have been sanctified and purified in the process of waiting.

We are so impatient to get to the final “Yes” that we may miss the equally important “but wait” that is part of the very healing that we seek. Take God’s whole answer and accept it in full: “YES, BUT WAIT.”

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