God answers prayer in one of three ways: “yes,” “no,” or “yes, but not yet.” This last reply seems to be the most dreaded sometimes even more than an outright “no.” However, patience is an important biblical principle, which Scripture stresses repeatedly in stories, Psalms, and epistles.
Waiting on the Lord to unlock a door is always wiser than attempting to pry it open ourselves, even when the delay has been long. After God promised him a son (Gen. 12:2), Abraham lived for 25 years with an answer of “not yet.” After that quarter-century, the answer finally became “yes.” But meanwhile, Abraham and Sarah hatched their own plan to get an heir—Sarah’s servant Hagar bore Ishmael. The couple may have convinced themselves they were “helping” God live up to His prophecy, but really they were disobeying. The consequences were disastrous. Bitterness and blame affected every member of the family (Gen. 16:4-6; 21:9-10). In addition, Ishmael’s people lived in enmity with their neighbors, and that hostility persists in the Middle East today (Gen. 16:11-12; 25:18).
Our patience gives God time to prepare the opportunity on the other side of a closed door. Even if we can force our way by manipulating circumstances, we will not be happy with what we find there. No one in Abraham’s camp was satisfied with the situation they created! We have contentment and joy only when we access God’s will at the very moment He ordained. The blessings we find on the other side of an open door are well worth the wait.
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