I’ve noticed over the last few years that there are so many wonderful songs about God‘s victory, and Jesus’ victory over death, hell, and the grave, and even its application to our life—how God‘s fighting our battles for us and with us. I’m so grateful that the Church has wonderful songs to sing about those themes.
But what has felt missing to me, at times, are the songs about unanswered prayer; the moments that don’t feel like victory; the moments that may very well be losses of the battle, even when we know Christ has won the ultimate victory.
We find ourselves, as Jesus’ followers, living in the tension between ultimate victory in Christ—all things being made new—and still wrestling through real suffering and difficulty in this life. It’s that middle ground that theologians often call the “now but not yet.” What they mean is that God‘s kingdom is here now, but its fullness is still yet to come. We live in both.
In the moment when we ask for God‘s kingdom to come—like asking him to heal someone who is sick—sometimes he does, and we experience the “now” aspect of the kingdom. We celebrate and give thanks for it. But, at other times, we ask for the very same thing and God doesn’t heal someone the way we want him to, and we experience the “not yet.”
Or maybe we go through trials and we ask God, “Would you just make a way where there seems to be no way? Would you open the door so I could walk through?” and he does! He makes a way, and our circumstances change, and we rejoice in it. Yet, there are other seasons of life where we’re praying and asking for the same thing, and for reasons that only God knows, he allows us to persist in suffering or discomfort. I think of like the apostle Paul when he asked for the thorn in his flesh to be removed and he ended up living in the “not yet” of God’s kingdom.
This is a moment where we tend to wrestle and can start to believe it’s all one way or the other—either God only hears our prayers and answers them, or he never does. My encouragement to you is that we must learn how to live under the guiding hand of our Good Shepherd, who always leads his people in good things. But it doesn’t always look like we wanted to or even think it ought. In those moments, we have to learn how to say, “I trust you, Lord. I trust that you’re good; I trust that you’re leading me to green pastures and that you have good things for me even if, right now, I’m experiencing prayers that feel unanswered or I’m asking for one thing and you’re giving me another.”
In those moments, we must learn to trust God and walk forward in faithfulness, knowing that he’s leading us. Sometimes in this world, we feel the ache of the “not yet,” but there’s a day coming when the kingdom will be here fully—when Jesus will make all things new—and it will forever be the “now.” So we hold on, living faithful lives until that day comes.