Trusting God when He hasn't answered your prayers

I’ve been in a season of singleness for twelve years now. Twelve years of walking with God through the ups and downs. Twelve years of being frustrated with His timing. Twelve years of watching most of my close friends get married (and start having kids). Twelve years of God holding my heart when relationships didn’t end the way I had hoped. Twelve years of listening to friends share their “wisdom” on how I am too picky or not picky enough.

Yet, I’ve also had twelve years of opportunities. Twelve years of pursuing other dreams in my heart—traveling, missions, and passions like photography and singing. Twelve years of reading in uninterrupted silence, serving in ministry, and sometimes just living nomadically simply because I could.

What I’ve realized most in these twelve years is God never wastes a season. There will always be seasons of waiting—ask a couple waiting to get pregnant, parents waiting for their prodigal child to return home, or a student waiting to graduate—but it’s when God doesn’t answer our prayers in the timing we lay out for Him that we come face to face with the reality of our own hearts. It’s then we must ask ourselves if we still believe He is good.

The biggest shift in my life came when a friend sent me a devotional about the Israelites asking God for a king. In 1 Samuel 8, Samuel was judge over Israel, and the people asked him to appoint a king so they could “be like other nations.” Samuel took their request to God, but God warned that it isn’t what they really want and explained what would happen if they appointed a king (taxes, hard labor, etc.). Samuel took the warning to the people, but they refused to listen to him. Samuel took their response back to God, and with what I can only imagine was a very big sigh, He answered Samuel: “Listen to them and give them a king.” How often do we fight for our own way? Or even demand it? We think we know best. We’re so passionate about our stance or desires, it’s hard to see that God may already have a plan. God wanted to be the Israelites’ King. He wanted to be the one to fight for them and protect them, but they demanded their own way, which eventually led to their demise.

As I read this devotional, God began to whisper something, putting His finger on one specific petition I’d continually brought to Him, one desire of my heart: marriage.

“Could this maybe be similar to your dream and desire for marriage?” He asked me. I sat speechless. Was He really comparing me to the Israelites? I’d read a lot about them, and being like them wasn’t at the top of my priority list. Surely, we were very different.

God whispered again, “What if meeting your desire doesn’t equal what you think it does? What if you’ve held onto it so tightly that you can’t receive what I want to give you today, in this season? What if I have a sea of desires you haven’t even tapped into that I’m ready to pour out as soon as your hands are open to receive?”

I’d subconsciously made a long list of what singleness and marriage equaled, and suddenly I saw God draw a line straight down the middle, through each equal sign. “What if that desire doesn’t equal that?” I heard Him repeat again.

What if you’ve already been chosen?
What if I am always with you and will never leave or forsake you?
What if I will take care of you—as your provider, healer, and Father?
What if I open doors for you that no man can shut?
What if you find your joy in me and not your circumstances?
What if … ?

It was simple and obvious: the idea of marriage had become an idol. This one unmet desire had become my focus and measuring stick of God’s love, as if the sum of His goodness and power had been placed in a small box to simply provide me a spouse, and I was overlooking all the other things He was giving me today.

With my list demolished, it occurred to me I was okay. God was not withholding. He was giving. God has so many other adventures and dreams He wants to give me today, and in His good timing, marriage will be one of them.


Jenae Tankersley has been at Gateway for seven years and currently works in Gateway Young Adults. She loves to go on new traveling adventures, attempt to garden, tell stories through photography and blogging, and hang out with friends.