There are times in the Christian’s life where we wait upon God, where we wait for relief from some kind of afflication, and where we wait for a long time for God to answer prayer. I am certain that you have experienced times like these, and know that the temptation in such times is to despair and to demand, to grow angry and impatient. But in The Mystery of Providence John Flavel warns: Though God means to give you the comfort or mercy you long for, he usually first exercises your patience by making you wait. He does that for these 3 reasons:
- Because this is not the right time for you to receive that mercy. Simply stated, God does not judge time as you do. You are in a hurry, but God is not, and he knows the perfect time to dispense his mercy. “For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18). Will you wait for his timing?
- These difficult circumstances have not accomplished in your heart what God means for them to accomplish. Though you may be earnest and impatient in your desire for what you believe are better circumstances, God will wait until the trial has accomplished his purposes.
- The more you pray and the more you search your heart, the sweeter the relief will be when it comes. God means to overwhelm you with his grace, and it may take fervent prayer and humble patience for you to respond to his mercy in the right way. “It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation’ (Isaiah 25:9 ESV).”
As a sinful human being you are prone to judge your circumstances by your senses and observations. Always consider that God’s heart can be toward you even while his hand appears to be against you. If your circumstances continue unabated you may be tempted to think that your prayers have been useless and that you are without hope in the world. You may even go so far as to conclude that God is angry with you and has closed his ears to your prayers. But the God who has saved you will never turn his back on you.
Instead of believing such lies, consider these 6 things:
- God is delaying his mercy for your benefit. God is waiting so that he may extend grace to you at the perfect moment. Right now you are in the time of preparation where God is readying the comfort he means to give you. A foolish child plucks an apple while it is green. But when that apple is ripe, it drops off of its own accord and is far more delicious and wholesome. Wait with wisdom and patience. It will be worth the wait.
- A heart that trusts in God is far more precious than any comfort. It is a greater mercy to have a heart that trusts in God than to enjoy the comfort you are sure you need. Flavel says, “a frame is better than a fruition.” A heart oriented toward God is much more precious and enduring than any peaceful or comfortable circumstance.
- Mercy is never nearer than when your heart and hope is lowest. Light shines the brightest when you are sure that only darkness remains. God’s mercy will be all the brighter when your heart is in its darkest state.
- God delays his mercy because you are unfit to receive it. God’s mercy may be waiting for you to become ready to receive it. God may holding it back for your own good, even while you grumble and complain about his lack of haste.
- Remember that any mercy you desire is only and entirely a gift of grace. You do not deserve God’s mercy and have no claim to it. Because of this, the only proper way to wait for it is with patience and gratitude. You are waiting for a gift, not for your just reward.
- Consider how many people are forever cut off from all hope of mercy. Consider those who are perishing without grace and how for them all that remains is the further expectation of wrath. This might have been you if not for the grace of God. So wait for God’s mercy with patient humility.
We will continue our reading next week with chapter 10: “Motives of Reflecting on God’s Providence.” Read it by next Thursday and check in to see what I (and others) have to say about it.
The purpose of this project is to read classics together. So do feel free to leave a comment if you have something you would like to say. Alternatively, you may leave a link to your blog or Facebook or anywhere else you have reflected on what you have read.
If you would like to read along with us, you are free to do so (though you’ve got some catching up to do). Simply get a copy of the book and start reading…