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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Redeeming Time

Oh, the agony of unanswered prayer!

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Proverbs 13:12a (ESV)

Yet the struggle has benefits when we trust God and wait for deliverance.

My spiritual tussle started in my 20s and crescendoed until I hit 50. I enjoyed several facets of life in those years, but I longed for a godly and compatible companion.

“It isn’t good for man to be alone.” Genesis 2:18 (TLB), the Scriptures say.

I understood that too well. My painstaking prayers had not gotten through, or so it seemed.

Time as an Ally

Thirty years is a long time to wait for a spouse. However, waiting became more palatable in the mid-90s when a spiritual lightning bolt struck – four “sightings” of Isaiah 40:31. You know the verse:

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (ESV)

My first glimpse of this passage appeared on a tractor-trailer. The following day, a friend quoted it to me while we discussed my singleness. A few days thereafter during prayer at home, I felt an inexplicable urge to look at a calendar in another room. Guess what Scripture I saw on that calendar!

A week later, the final visitation left no doubt God was speaking to me. At a tiny museum in rural Canada miles away from home, a hymnal resting on an old organ drew me. I picked up the hymnal, opened it randomly and, to my amazement, discovered a hymn on the facing pages whose sole words were the text of Isaiah 40:31!

My initial reaction was, “Is more waiting really the answer to my prayers?”

Thereafter, eagles began popping up all around me, whether in pictures, on signs, in literature, or swooping high overhead my home in Maine. God had indeed spoken. I wasn’t sure what He was saying, but I knew it was Him. That was encouragement enough.

Deliverance

Two decades later, in my eighth year of a happy marriage to a wonderful woman, I understand better the message from those unforgettable sightings. God had heard and answered my prayers, but He wanted me to learn more contentment in Him before He unveiled Mrs. Bishop.

All along, He was in His workshop with a chisel, a hammer, and a touch-up brush, and I was His unfinished piece. Even for the Skilled Craftsman, this kind of work takes time because He works on fragile subjects who often resist His touch. The transformation begins at spiritual birth, accelerates with cooperation, and approaches completion as He ushers us into His heavenly presence. Whittle away some self-centeredness, slather in more patience, and add a touch of grace and humility. It takes a long time to create effective art out of some material. Apparently, I needed a lot of work.

Back then, God’s workshop had another sculpture undergoing refinement. It was Debbie! Only He knew how to take anger, damaged emotions, and regrettable choices and prepare them for the next phase of His work. He would continue that project in tandem with the other one – me.

Despite the long wait, God’s answer to our prayers arrived on time and fit the need perfectly! Where else could He find two of His followers who wanted to bicycle across America with a special companion by their side? He allowed us to celebrate our dream come true in glorious fashion.

“A desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12b (ESV)

Little did we know He had much more in store for us. Thank God, my distress drove me to my knees where He could shape me. I learned more about being His child and meshing with those around me. He continues molding us into His likeness so He can use us more effectively to touch others.

Differing Circumstances, Same Process

You may have your own unique wrestling match with God, but its pain and longing for deliverance are similar to mine. Rest assured He’s not going to abandon you in your suffering. He’s saying,

“I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b, ESV).

His purpose is

“to give life in all its fullness” (John 10:10b, TLB).

While it may be late, the light still burns in His workshop.

The enemy may use what seems like unanswered prayer to suggest otherwise, but God is trustworthy. He sees what we can’t. Although His timeframe often differs with ours, amazingly, He can redeem anything and everything for His purposes, even longsuffering amid heartache. All He needs is unimpeded access to His masterpiece.

Soon enough, we’ll know what He’s been up to. If you ask Debbie and me, it’s never too late for prayers to be answered and for dreams to come true.

Premised on an excerpt from Two Are Better: Midlife Newlyweds Bicycle Coast to Coast © 2013 Timothy G Bishop and Deborah L Bishop. Used by permission.

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