When God doesn’t answer “on time”

Typically when we share our anxiety about a circumstance with a friend, we expect the friend to respond with a similar angst to our situation. After all that’s how we know they care, right? But when a friend responds with nonchalance, we feel that they don’t really love us. Well sometimes we project this same expectation to God in respect to our prayers. We expect God to mirror our anxiety and sense of urgency so that He will act in a hurry. The problem with that expectation comes when immediate relief to our plight doesn’t arrive, we are left with charging God with apathy towards us.

But God lives and works on another timetable, one that is not driven by my personal anxiety. This is wonderfully illustrated in Mark 5:21-43 as Jairus, the desperate dad/synagogue ruler who comes to Jesus looking for the healing of his dying daughter. As they begin to move toward his home they are interrupted by a poor woman with a chronic bleeding condition. Dick Lucas writes that one of the most striking things in this scene is that, “Jesus takes the time to comfort and teach an unclean woman with a chronic problem, causing a Male Church leader in urgent need to wait.” Jarius deserves quicker attention: he has the clout, the status, the cultural norms, along with a more urgent situation and a higher quality of faith than the woman. Jairus would likely resent the interruption as Jesus lingers with a sick woman (who is not going to die anytime soon) while his dying daughter waits.

The woman tugs at the back of Jesus’ robe and gets his attention. Moments later the Synagogue Ruler is tugging on the same robe saying in his heart, “Come on Jesus, we need to go. Perhaps you don’t understand the meaning of the word ‘URGENT.'” The bleeding woman comes with a superstitious faith, she believes poorly and lives while Jairus comes humbly with surprising confidence, he believes well and his daughter is going to die.

Without spoiling the ending for you, it would be good to pause at this moment of interruption and delay to make a point from God’s perspective. The point is that delay doesn’t negate his answer and delay doesn’t negate his love.  God’s delayed response doesn’t equate to a lack of love and concern as His love is compatible with even baffling delays. His is the Perfect Timetable; the Just Right Calendar. The Lord would say to Jairus and to us in the midst of interruption and delay, “Despite how things appear at the moment, I love you and care deeply about your circumstances.” But He will not Hurry. He will not be rushed. He’s too Holy, Wise, and Powerful to Hurry.

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