Why Does God Delay Answering My Prayers?
Part I of II
Dear Father John,
Two of my college educated sons have been out of work for several years. Fortunately, both wives work. What happens typically is that our hopes get raised when they get called in for an interview, are asked to come back, and then another invitation follows for additional meetings. Then the news comes saying they chose someone else. The emotional roller-coaster is brutal. My prayer to God has been that I will pay any price that needs to be paid for them to get jobs as long as He doesn’t tell me in advance what He will ask. I am at a loss to understand why nothing seems to break for them. I know that God often delays answering prayers. I also know the value of redemptive suffering. I am beginning to grow concerned that their faith will weaken because of what seems like disinterest from God. You have written about redemptive suffering before. But what do you say when God appears to delay in giving any succor, especially when the request is to be able to take care of your family. I know God cherishes the family, especially when it is under such attack. It seems like nothing is coming from heaven to support them. Please help me find something to say to them so they don’t lose faith and hope in this relentless phase of struggle and ongoing disappointment.
The pain and suffering you are undergoing in this crucible of family struggle is palpable. I wish I could give you an easy answer – actually, I wish I could offer your sons a job! Thank you for sharing this question, as I am certain you are not the only one engaged in this kind of spiritual battle.
Unfortunately, I am afraid you may not like my answer very much. In fact, you actually answer your own questions (and I detect at least two questions), but the answer is a hard one, and I think that’s why your soul is seeking confirmation.
Your first question boils down to this: “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers the way I want them to be answered?” After all, you are asking for something not only reasonable, but good and, it seems, necessary. Why would God delay? Let me answer that question with another question: How firmly do you believe that God loves your sons even more than you do? We know that he does – not because your love is paltry, but because his love is infinite. The love you have for your sons, as strong and passionate as it is, is only a reflection of the infinite love God has for them. And at the same time, God is all-powerful. And so, by faith, we know that since God is permitting this cross, he has his reasons, and he will bring a whole series of glorious Easter Sundays out of this seemingly endless string of Good Fridays.
In times of crisis, we have to intentionally exercise our faith, purposely and courageously reminding ourselves that God’s ultimate purpose is to bring each person into a deeper and deeper communion with himself. This communion begins and grows here on earth, but it reaches its fulfillment only in heaven. The battles, struggles, sorrows, and often horrible sufferings we face on our earthly pilgrimage are inescapable in a fallen world; but God, far from being absent in the midst of them, has transformed them into channels of grace, gymnasiums of virtue, and bridges to greater wisdom, mercy, and spiritual maturity.
You feel your faith being stretched by your present trial. It should bring you to your knees more intensely – and that, it seems, is what God is asking of you. By pushing you out of your spiritual comfort zone, he is purifying your faith, and a purer faith will bring you into a greater union with the Sacred Heart. As St. James puts it: “My brothers, consider it a great joy when trials of many kinds come upon you, for you well know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance and perseverance must complete its work so that you will become fully developed, complete, not deficient in any way” (James 1:2-4).
In this season of suffering, you may find encouragement through doing some extra spiritual reading. You are not alone in this trial; you are a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. Drawing inspiration from the lives of the saints and other Christians who have undergone tremendous suffering on their path to holiness will encourage, guide, and edify you. Read, for example, Robert Royals Martyrs of the Twentieth Century, or Blessed Mother Teresa’s Come Be My Light, or Walter Ciszek’s He Leadeth Me. We have to purposely fill our imagination with reminders that God works through suffering, otherwise, our faith and our hope will wane, and we will fall into the blinding spiral of frustration and discouragement, where we are vulnerable to the deadliest of all sins: pride.
In our next post on this topic, we will look at the second question, “When a Mother’s Love Feels Helpless”. We will talk about how to let go and leave everything in God’s loving hands.
Art for this post asking Why does God Delay?: Nossa Senhora das Dores (Our Lady of Pains or Our Lady of Sorrows), Domingos Sequeira (1768-1837), 18th to 19th century, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.