God is always working, even when we don’t see

One morning last week, I was a little discouraged as I prayed for a long-term prayer request. I hadn’t seen any movement on that front in a long time. It didn’t look like anything was happening.

I felt sure that I was praying according to God’s will. 1 John 5:14-15 says, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” That doesn’t mean He will answer everything in just the time and way we want. Sometimes He might even say no if that is better for us than a yes. Sometimes He has something different and better in mind. Sometimes He wants us to wait.

But as I was praying for His working in a heart to bring a person to faith in Himself, I felt sure that He would do all in His power to answer that request.

Sometimes sin can hinder answers to prayer, but I wasn’t aware of anything I needed to confess to the Lord or anything that would hinder answered prayer.

I’ve had enough experience with the Lord that I know He’s working, even if I don’t see any evidence of it. So I encouraged myself by reminding myself of times in Scripture or in my own life where I saw His answer after an extended period of seeming inactivity.

From the garden of Eden, God promised Adam and Eve that a redeemer would come to defeat Satan. It was thousands of years before that redeemer came. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). God was at work all those years, preparing people for the coming of His Son.

Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years before the son God promised them arrived. Why did God make them wait so long? Perhaps to strengthen their faith.

David was anointed king years before actually coming to the throne. Meanwhile he had to flee for his life while the current king, Saul, sought to kill him.

Daniel and others were in exile in Babylon for seventy years before God brought some of them back to Israel.

Hebrews 11 lists several more who saw God do great things after long years. Some of them even “died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar” (verse 13). They trusted God would answer and bring about His will even though they never saw the answer in their lifetime.

In my own life, I remember aching over the breakup of my family and the loss of all that was familiar when we moved to a new city when I was a teenager. I clung with all my might to Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” I am not even sure I was saved then. I had made a profession as a young child, but had not been in church or in the Bible regularly. I couldn’t remember much about what I prayed when I came forward in a friend’s church in third grade. But I knew enough that I could go to God for help. After a very long and lonely summer, God led us to a school and church where I was regularly taught His Word and where I made sure of my salvation in my teens. God had been drawing me to Himself all the while, even when I felt so alone.

I didn’t have a long period of singleness, but it felt plenty long at the time. I spent several years in a Christian college with eligible young men all around me. But none of them seemed interested in me. Then after several years of praying for the right one, a friendship blossomed into something more. God had been laying the foundation and preparing both of us for each other, even when we were unaware of what He had in mind.

One of the biggest demonstrations of God’s unseen working occurred in my father. I knew my father loved me, but he also got angry easily. He was big on respect and authority, and he took any arguments or disagreements from his children as disrespect or “sass.” Consequently, I was afraid to talk to him about things he might disagree with. He had always believed there was a God, but as far as I knew hadn’t believed in Him in a personal way.

When I went off to college, I’d share verses at the end of letters to my father. I always wrote them out because I didn’t figure he’d look up the references. He never responded to them. I pictured him either skipping over them in disgust or shaking his head and thinking, “There she goes again.”

Several years after my husband and I got married and had a couple of children, my father came to visit us in SC for the first time. He wasn’t well. He had gotten out of the hospital with pneumonia not long before flying out, so we felt maybe he just traveled too soon. But on the day he was supposed to fly back to TX, he ended up in the hospital.

One evening as we came down the hospital hall to visit him, the nurse told us they had almost lost him, and he was in ICU. When she took us to him, he said, “I know one thing. When I get home, me and the pastor are going to have a long talk.” We asked if he would like our pastor in SC to come and see him. He said yes.

On an interesting side note, before he got so sick, he had come with us to the field day at my oldest son’s elementary school. He met my pastor and his wife there, as they had a child in the same school. My pastor’s wife was from west TX, as my dad was. She knew the little town he was from, a town most people had never heard of. I think that little detail drew him to them and caused my dad to be open to the pastor’s coming when he might not have been if he had never met them.

While my dad was in ICU, we could only visit with him 15 minutes at a time once or twice a day. My pastor came often—I think he may have come every day for a while.

Finally my dad was moved out of ICU into a private room. The first day we visited him there, almost as soon as we walked in, he said something like, “I just want you to know that the pastor came by today, and I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.”

I almost fell over. To have my father express faith so clearly and openly was something I hadn’t expected.

Later, as we talked with my pastor, he shared with us some of the discussions he’d had with my dad. He said at one point, my dad talked about the verses I used to send him and said, “My daughter has been trying to get me to do this for years.” To my shame, I had been praying for his salvation but had not wanted to push. I think I might have written out the full plan of salvation once or twice. But mostly I just sent verses as a postscript without comment. All that time I thought my dad had just skipped over those verses, God had been using them to plant seeds in his heart.

He came with us to church before he went home. I wish he had lived closer, so he could have come with us more and we could have encouraged him spiritually. For some reason, he never got into the church back in TX.

So there wasn’t a dramatic change in his life. My pastor encouraged me that when someone is saved later in life (my dad was 61), they’ve had more years on the other side of things. It takes a lifetime to grow spiritually, and my dad had had more time on one side than the other.

But there were subtle changes. He liked to read, and he was open to my sending him Christian books. One of them was about Christians behind the Iron Curtain. On the phone we discussed the amazing ways God helped and encouraged those people in such hard circumstances.

As I hung up the phone, I thought, “I just had a conversation with my dad about the Lord.” A miracle.

When seeds are planted, they remain underground for a while before anything of the plant comes up. Different plants grow at different rates: some take a long time. The flat ground looks lifeless. But underneath, things are happening. Then that first green blade appears and rejoices the heart of the planter.

I love John Piper‘s quote that “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”

Though sometimes we have to wait long, we can wait in faith and hope, knowing God is at work behind the scenes.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

25 thoughts on “God is always working, even when we don’t see

  1. Just love this post and it really was an encouragement to me to learn more about you, and your examples of God working. I love the idea about you adding verses to your letters to your dad. I email my oldest each week with all the week’s news. I am burdened about her dating a guy who is agnostic, yet when I try (very carefully!) to express this to her, she bristles. I think I may try adding a verse to those emails … I too love that Piper quote about all the things God is doing behind the scenes. Really faith-building …

  2. Barbara, what a sweet encouraging post! My dad came to faith pretty much on his deathbed after years of prayer and seed-planting but there are others in my family who are far from God. So, your words were a great encouragement. Blessings!

  3. Barbara, what a very special answer to your prayers. I know there are times when I get discouraged because of praying for the salvation of a loved one and it doesn’t appear as though anything is happening. Reading here today has encouraged my heart greatly to remain faithful in my prayers for this loved one.

  4. Like you Barbara I prayed & have encouragement for over 40 years to see two loved ones come to the Lord.
    And like your Dad, one hasn’t had a dramatic change but he was in his eighties when he came to the Lord.
    However, he is happy for me to pray with him often & is always the first to say Amen! I count that very precious indeed.
    Blessings, Jennifer

  5. Thanks for this beautiful reminder to keep praying! I love your testimony of your precious daddy! Thankyou for sharing your heart. Romans 8:26-28.❤️

  6. Enjoyed this post so much Ms. Barbara; both from the testimony of God’s faithfulness you shared and the wonderful praiseworthy news of your father’s salvation. I’ve come to accept that I may never see the fruit of the seeds of faith I’ve sown in this life, but God will show me on that day all of the prayers He answered, even though I never got to see them answered. It isn’t what we see, but what He does, isn’t it my friend. All we have to do is be faithful. God’s blessings and Happy Thanksgiving my friend.

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  8. well this was a HUGE encouragement to me tonight Barbara. Thank you so very much for sharing this testimony about your father. (mine was saved as was my mom but we have been praying for YEARS for my inlaws). THis was something I really needed to read tonight.

  9. Your title reminded me of part of the worship song “Waymaker” which reminds us that God is at work, making a way, even though we may not see it. And your wonderful story of how your dad came to faith reminded me of my own uncle, who quietly and thoughtfully came to the Lord at about age 80. My parents and my brother and I are so very blessed to be able to discuss spiritual things with him after all these years of praying and waiting. And there are so many more examples of God working miracles while we are quite unaware. God is good. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Thank you so much for this post. It really blessed me. The Lord answers our prayers so much. He is so loving and He really sees us where we are. he hears our prayers. But his answer is often in the little things. When we live our loud, flashy life with all the things that pull us away from God, we jump over it and don’t see His encouragements. They’re there. If we only lived more mindfully, we could pick them up like manna and cherish them (that was an eye-opener for me on Sunday, after the service).

    Your post ties into that. It is very hopeful for me to read this. There is hope because God is there.

  11. Such and encouraging reminder to love, love some more, and keep loving. Each love seed will bear fruit in its proper time. Rejoicing with you in your father’s salvation! THS#8

  12. Dear Barbara, what grace and hope knowing that God is still very much present even when all seems dim. I hope you have a Thanksgiving filled with rest, hope, and celebration, friend. I’m grateful that we get to do this blogging life together …

  13. Thank you so much, Barbara for this encouragement; it was just what I needed to read today. Thank you for sharing your personal examples of God’s loving (yet often unseen) work in our lives. It’s a reminder to never give up hoping, praying, and obeying His call.

  14. Oh my goodness what an encouragement this is to me today. I just finished praying for someone I love’s salvation, but have seen no traction in their life. God knows! He is working!

    Praise Him for His faithfulness throughout the ages, including to you and to your dad. Thank you so much for sharing this today. Happy thanksgiving!

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