I often find it perplexing why God answers some prayers with “yes,” other prayers with “no,” and still others with “not yet.”
I sure wish He would answer all my prayers with “yes.”
When God doesn’t answer your prayers the way you want, how do you respond? “Why, God? Why now? Why this suffering? Why this cancer? Why this death? Why this struggle?” We can very easily sound like the toddler who incessantly asks, “Why, why, why?”
Vance Havner (1901-1986), a witty evangelist who authored over forty books, once wrote, “God marks across some of our days, `Will explain later.’” When he lost his wife to disease, he was disconsolate. But out of the experience, he later wrote:
When before the throne we stand in Him complete, all the riddles that puzzle us here will fall into place, and we shall know in fulfillment what we now believe in faith—that all things work together for Good in His eternal purpose. No longer will we cry, “My God, why?” Instead, “alas” will become “Alleluia,” all question marks will be straightened into exclamation points, sorrow will change to singing, and pain will be lost in praise (Playing Marbles with Diamonds, 97).
In Hebrews 11, we read of the miraculous, powerful deliverances and movements of God in and through His faithful servants. But then the writer suddenly changes tone:
But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world (Hebrews 11:35b-38a, NLT).
If I were able to be included in such a register as the heroes of faith, I would much rather be on the “miraculous side” than the “torture side.” But which side we’re on is not a choice we often get to make.
I don’t pretend to know the mysteries of God, but I look forward to His “will explain later.” I still have a lot of question marks, but I, in faith, trust that one day God will straighten them all into exclamation points, and sorrow will change to singing, and pain will be lost in praise.
In his last letter, the apostle Paul boasted, “Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18, NLT). Yet tradition has it that Paul was beheaded shortly thereafter, his body cast aside, and his head tossed into the grave after him. Was he, after all, delivered?
Yes. On the timeline of eternity, momentary sufferings give way to “a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NLT).
The question is, Do we believe that? Do we truly believe that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)? If so, then we know that He who is faithful will one day say, “And now, let Me explain.”