Perhaps you have prayed for a spouse, but you are still single. Perhaps you have prayed for a better career situation, but there doesn’t appear to be any open doors. Or maybe you have a reoccurring sin in your life that you wish God would remove, but no matter what you try it remains. Is God delaying your desire or denying it?
Here are 4 signs that usually mean God is simply delaying your desire rather than denying it.
1. God Has Delayed and Not Denied Your Desire If This Is One of Those Things That God Produces Through a Process
We often imagine prayer to happen in a “poof.” Like, “Lord, please grant me a spouse” and then “poof,” you meet the one; or, “Lord, please give me a better career” and then “poof,” God prompts your boss to give you a promotion; or, “Lord, please help me to never lust again” and then “poof,” all your sexual desires are gone.
Is this type of thing possible? Yes! God can instantly answer your prayers like this. Sometimes he does! However, normally God answers our prayers through a process that takes time to unfold.
If you pray for a spouse, God will usually allow you to meet and date people who are not your spouse before you find the right match. And then you two need to date and go through some trials before it becomes clear you should get married. If you want a better career, you may need to get more education, training, or show your skills over a longer period of time before the promotion comes. When you are struggling with sin, sanctification occurs through a process of maturing more and more in the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Therefore, if you are asking God for something that he usually grants through a process, this is a good sign he has not denied your desire but has simply delayed it.
2. God Has Delayed and Not Denied Your Desire If You Need More Time to Develop the Ability to Handle This Gift
If God just skipped you ahead without putting you on the journey, you would lack the skills and lessons you would have gained through the process.
Remember, throughout the Bible we are taught that all good things come from God by grace (Ephesians 2:8, James 1:17) while also being taught that God blesses people according to their abilities to handle those blessings. In Jesus’ parable of the talents, Matthew 25:15 states, “To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” The master wanted these servants to use these gifts to multiply his wealth.
Likewise, God gives us gifts not so we can use them on ourselves but that we might love people and glorify him (1 Peter 4:10-11). Thus, God will entrust you with more when you have the ability to use these gifts in the right way (James 4:3).
If you are in the process of learning how to properly use God’s gifts for his glory, this is a good sign he has not denied your desire but has simply delayed it.
3. God Has Delayed and Not Denied Your Desire if Someone Else Who Is Connected to Your Desire Needs More Time to Develop the Ability to Handle This Gift
Many of our deepest desires involve other people. If you want to be married, for example, it is entirely possible you are ready but your future spouse is not. Therefore, everything we just said in point 2 about delays being used to develop our abilities to handle the blessings – we also need to apply that to other people as well.
Colossians 3:12 (NIV), “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” As you wait for this person to also mature in the Lord, show your love for God and for this person through the patience that comes from Christ.
4. God Has Delayed and Not Denied Your Desire If It Will Bring More Glory to Him
Why does God do what he does? Sometimes God will give us a detailed explanation for why he has done (or not done) something and at other times we will be left in the dark about the details. However, big picture, we always know why God does what he does.
According to Scripture, God always does what brings himself most glory, and this is always what is best for us (Hebrews 13:20-21). Our best life is one in which we are completely devoted to God, putting him first in every way (Philippians 3:8).
Therefore, when it serves to glorify God more, he will choose to delay and not deny your desire. As Romans 11:36 explains, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”