Practical Application of the Word of God
No doubt we’ve all heard stories from fellow Christians about instant deliverance after prayer from a trial or a life-threatening situation. I must admit that when I hear those kind of stories, while I’m thankful for the people telling it, I always get introspective and ask God what I’m doing wrong.
Because in my life, as far as my conscious memory goes back, not once has that ever been my experience. In fact, just the opposite has been the case.
Not only has deliverance not been immediate, but the process has been grueling, taxing, and always extended beyond every breaking point I thought I had reached several times over until deliverance finally came.
In fact, it seems the further along the converting path I travel, the longer and harder the process of deliverance becomes.
And because my tendency is to always blame myself when things go wrong or aren’t going right, I immediately go to God with myself and ask Him what I’m doing wrong and what I need to change because my experiences in this area have never been immediate nor without a lot of hardship along the way.
I ask God this question over and over as I seek His help: “What’s wrong with me?” I beg Him to show me and I ask Him to help me change all the things in me that must be standing in the way of Him delivering me.
I assume that I must just be more unrighteous than other Christians (we are all sinners, but, like Paul, I always believe that I must be at the top of the sinner’s list with God).
I often echo Christ’s words in Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from helping me,
And from the words of my groaning?“
And while there are many things I learn about myself – some good that are strengthened and some bad that I need to repent of and change – during these long and arduous processes of deliverance, I am always moved – and sometimes it’s voluntary and other times it’s involuntary, with God simply picking me up and putting me where I need to be – by God to go beyond my expectations, to back out to a big picture point of view, and go to His word to see whether my experiences with deliverance are unique or not.
God works with me through His spirit in conjunction with the way He knit me together, cell by cell and DNA strand by DNA strand, in the womb.
My expectation is always that as soon as I ask for help, help will come and whatever trial or trials I’m dealing with will be immediately resolved. I know and believe that God is able to do that, so it’s not an unrealistic expectation (or is it?).
After all, I think of the woman who had been sick for 12 years and was healed just by touching Jesus Christ’s clothing. Or the man who had been blind from birth who had his sight restored. Or the man who had been crippled for 38 years and was immediately healed when Christ told him to get up and walk.
The sheer number and type of physical processes that had to be restored in an instant in each of these cases (the man who walked had to have not just the infirmity healed, but he had to have the muscles in his upper and lower legs, which had completely atrophied, fully healed and strengthened so that he could stand up and actually walk) resoundingly reinforces the infinite power of God when I read these accounts.
But then I’m forced to go back and really read them to understand that even deliverance for each one of them was not immediate like I always tend to assume at first glance. 12 years. From birth to manhood. 38 years.
So even in these examples deliverance was long, arduous, and a process.
As I come around to this mindset, which is the big picture, I don’t immediately go to God’s word.
I take a slight detour and look back at the history of the length of my trials to see if I can gauge, based on experience, how long the current trial(s) will last and when I can reasonably expect them to end (historically, there is usually some breakthrough in most of them around Passover, the Night of Vigil, and the Days of Unleavened Bread, but not always).
I don’t recommend this as a good way to try to determine when God will provide deliverance (I fall into the trap of thinking “well, I just have to endure for ___________, and it will be over,” which initially precludes me from being in the moment and learning the lessons in the process), because whatever you think you know based on past data isn’t relevant to the present.
That is just not how God works, no matter how many times I think I’ve got it and Him figured out. And that finally leads me to God’s word, which is where I should have gone in the first place.
There I am reminded of the deliverance of Israel, the deliverance of Samson, the deliverance of Joseph, the deliverance of Abraham and Sarah (to have a son), the deliverance of Jacob, the deliverance of David (from Saul), the deliverance of Job, and a unique inside spiritual view of an example of deliverance for Daniel.
Israel’s deliverance was 470+ (430 in Egypt and 40+ in the wilderness) years and at no time was this ever a cake walk.
We don’t know how long Samson was imprisoned by the Philistines, but his eyes were gouged out when they captured him, and he died when God delivered him.
Joseph waited at least 10 or more years for God to deliver him, not only from prison, but from being sold into slavery by his brothers (most estimates put his age at 17 when his brothers sold him and we know that Pharaoh put him in the top position in Egypt when he was 30). Again, Joseph’s entire time in Egypt was fraught with a classic one-step-up-two-steps-back process.
Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for God to deliver them from being childless. And the intervening 25 years brought missteps, suffering, troubles, and, in fact, was the genesis of the conflict-ridden Middle East that we see today.
Jacob waited at least 20 years for deliverance from Laban, but the actual time from when his journey through his trials began and ended is even longer. And, once again, Jacob’s trials seemed to mount and get worse the longer they went on.
David, who had been anointed by Samuel in his mid-to-late teens to replace Saul as king of Israel, didn’t actually begin to rule anything until he was 30 and did not rule the whole kingdom of Israel until he was 37. Additionally, he spent a number of years on the run for his life waiting for God to deliver him out of the hands of Saul.
We don’t know how long Job’s trials lasted, but Job speaks only of days and months (not years), so we can assume that the duration was longer than two months and less than one year. And the suffering just never stopped increasing as these trials went on.
Daniel 10:1-13 is interesting in terms of giving us a glimpse into what we don’t know and can’t see going on behind the scene when we pray. Is it that God doesn’t hear? No. Are there spiritual wars going on that delay answers? Sometimes that is very likely the case.
Job’s trials give us even more insight into the whys and what that our most intense trials have as far as their origin and their purposes.
Satan asked God for permission to bring trials on Job and even taunted God that Job would behave unrighteously when trouble came on him because it was easy to be righteous – not! – when God was blessing Job at every turn.
God knew Job better than Satan did and He allowed, with limits, Satan to throw everything he had at Job.
Job didn’t sin against God during these trials, but he learned more about God and more about himself as a result of them. In other words, Job came out of these trials more spiritually mature and more humble and in awe of God than he went into them.
And that seems to be one critical reason why deliverance from trials is a long, arduous process. Spiritual learning and spiritual growth take time. Spiritual strength and spiritual commitment are gained by endurance over time.
It’s analogous to the difference between sprinters and marathoners.
Sprinters have very short careers because they depend on short distances and quick speeds to excel. However, they never develop the lung capacity to go longer distances, and as soon as age catches up with them in terms of speed, weight, injuries, etc., they’re done.
Marathoners, on the other hand, have much longer careers or even marathoning as a hobby, because they go long distances, which forces them to learn to pace themselves, develop better breathing techniques and more lung capacity, and there’s less of the jarring wear and tear on their joints that sprinters often suffer from.
The speed of our deliverance is a good spiritual mirror to look into when we look at the differences between sprinters and marathoners.
The other critical reason why deliverance from trials is a long, arduous process seems to me to be that if God gave us deliverance immediately every time we asked for it, we would not only take it for granted – and treat it casually – but we would also take God for granted and treat Him casually, with little to no honor, respect, and awe for Him as our Dad, our Provider, and our Deliverer.
We can see this analogy in physical parents and children.
More often than not, when parents give their children everything they ask for whenever they ask for it, their children grow up to be entitled, disrespectful, impatient, and selfish.
When, in their adult lives, situations come along where gratification is not instantaneous, these children are thrown for a loop and simply fall apart because they have never had to endure waiting for anything.
And, sadly, when these parents age and need help from their children, their children often either disappear and pawn them off on someone else to take care of, leaving the parents alone at the end of their lives.
On the other hand, parents who don’t give in immediately to every whim and desire of their children (either because they can’t afford to or because they want to teach their children life lessons about patience, delayed gratification, appreciation for things, and being selfless) end up raising children who, in most cases, are thankful, respectful, patient, and who are devoted to them the rest of their lives.
So, while the human part of me wants immediate deliverance, the spiritual part of me knows and understands that the process of deliverance is what I need and what is best for me in the long run.
When God knows the time is right, He will deliver me. I never fail to ask Him, though, to remember that we’re not on the same timetable – 1000 years is like a day to God and 24 hours is like a day to me – and to have mercy on me in delivering me on my timetable.
I know He knows that, but I figure it never hurts for me to remind Him if nothing more than to give Him a chuckle.