In the Crucible: Why Sometimes Nothing Happens After You Pray

by Gina Gardner, Steppes of Faith

“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (NKJ)

Being in God's crucible can be tough to endure, but He will brings through it with victory if we're patient.

My poor, incredible husband is walking through fire right now. He’s being forced to go right through the hot, smoldering coals with bare, naked feet. Just when he thinks he’s done walking, he finds himself sitting in a white hot crucible filled with flames. His head is heavy and spinning, he’s not sleeping, and he feels confused most of the time. He prays for help and deliverance, but nothing happens.

If you’ve been forced to reinvent yourself by suddenly changing careers, you know what I’m talking about. It goes without saying that it’s not a lot of fun, yet he and I have to recognize that God is trying to refine him. He’s trying to redirect my hubby with some molding and shaping of his heart and behaviors so he’ll be more Christ-like. As beneficial as it may be, you can’t escape the unpleasantness of it, which is why some people have called it God’s crucible.

It’s Getting Hot in This Here Crucible

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines a crucible like this:

“(1) a vessel of a very refractory material (as porcelain) used for melting and calcining (to heat) to a high temperature but without fusing in order to drive off volatile matter or to effect changes (as oxidation or pulverization) to a substance that requires a high degree of heat, (2) a severe test, (3) a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development.”

Basically, a crucible is a bowl where you put something in and set it on fire so that the ugly, useless, and dirty parts burn away. After the fire is put out, all that remains is purity. We might think of precious metals like gold when we think of purification. Gold has to be purified before being made into beautiful jewelry, which helps to illustrate what God sometimes puts us through so that our faith and behaviors will be more Christ-like.

Merriam-Webster also gives some interesting background information about the word “crucible”:

 “Crucible looks like it should be closely related to the Latin combining form “cruc-” (“cross”), but it isn’t. It was forged from the Medieval Latin crucibulum, a noun for an earthen pot used to melt metals, and in English, it first referred to a vessel of a very heat-resistant material (such as porcelain) used for melting a substance that requires a high degree of heat. But the resemblance between cruc- and crucible probably encouraged people to start using “crucible” to mean “a severe trial.” That sense is synonymous with one meaning of “cross,” a word that is related to “cruc-.”

So, according to Merriam-Webster, we can look at a crucible to be similar to a cross or, as I like to think of it, the cross of Jesus. If the same root meaning can refer to a “severe trial,” then something else God said is true: we all have our cross to bear.

The Crucible Test

Purity is one thing, but sitting in a crucible to get it isn’t usually a whole lot of fun. God tests us, and we’re forced to examine ourselves sometimes to the point of seemingly losing all hope that we’re ever going to get out of it. It can be flat out sufferable at times, and that’s because God is disciplining us. He even warned us upfront about it. Hebrews 12:11 tells us,

“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (NKJ)

So if we know we have to go through the purification process from time to time, our first response should be to dig into the Word and pray. A lot. But what do we do when nothing happens after we’ve prayed and prayed and prayed? What’s God up to?

God Always Answers You Even If You Don’t Think So

We’ve always been told that we need to pray through our circumstances. Whatever happens, good or bad, keep praying. I love an acronym my pastor once shared to encourage the church to pray even when life is hard. It’s P-U-S-H, “Pray Until Something Happens.” Keep pushing, keep praying until there’s a breakthrough.

But what if we’ve been praying and pushing and nothing seems to change? Our circumstances go on and on for weeks, months, maybe even years but we don’t hear a peep from God, which makes us doubt that God is even around. So our thoughts start to race, and we wonder if He sees what’s going on? Is He listening? Doesn’t He know how bad it is? Has He forgotten about us? Does He even care?

The truth is that God has definitely not forgotten about you. He sees everything. Nothing escapes His gaze. Psalm 34:15, 17, 19 says,

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry…The righteous cry out and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles…Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (NKJ)

Not to mention that He promises never to leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), which is very comforting. But why does it seem like He’s not there when we need Him the most? Why won’t He answer our prayers?

3 Ways God Answers You

No matter what you’re praying about, no matter how hot that crucible that you’re in gets, God will always answer you. Even when it seems like He must be deaf, I can assure you that He’s not. Our wondering why He’s not responding quickly enough is a human problem, not God’s because He answers in His own way in His own timing. Our fidgetiness doesn’t change that. All we can do is trust that He does respond when we pray.

There are three ways God answers you: “yes,” “no,” and “not yet.”

When He Says “Yes.” We obviously love it when God says “yes” to us. Let’s face it; we have selfish natures. So when He says “yes,” we’re ready to do a big fist pump and break out into singing and dancing, don’t we? For sure, God loves to give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 34:7)- but only if He agrees that it’s the right thing for us and it fits in with His perfect plan for us. If it falls within His will, He’ll say “yes.”

When He Says “No.” He also sometimes tells us “no.” Like a good parent, He won’t hesitate to keep us from doing something we shouldn’t do. It’s like when your teenager asks you if she can be alone with her new boyfriend upstairs in her room, or if your middle schooler says he’s buying a motorcycle with the money he’s saved up. I don’t know about you, but my answer would be, “Um, no, ain’t happening.”

God will also say “no” even if it seems like the decision is perfectly clear and reasonable to us. For example, you might think that investing in a new restaurant is a good idea because your best friend since high school, the chef, is just so incredible at cooking that it seems like a slam-dunk deal. But God, who sees all of the past and all of the future, knows whether or not that restaurant is going to be a raving success. If it’s not and He knows that its failure will cause you years of harm, then He’s going to tell you, “No, I can’t let you do that.”

When He Says “Not Yet.” But more often than not, God tells us to wait. We might pray for something like healing or provision or wisdom or a job, and God might agree that He wants to give it to you, but not right now. Not just yet. And maybe not in the way you imagined. There are other things that need to happen before He can allow it.

It makes me think of ducks. Mama ducks get their little ducklings all lined up and in order before she will take them anywhere. That’s what God does for us- He gets all the necessary ducks lined up in a row so that the way forward is clear, orderly, and ultimately, in our best interest.

I’m not entirely sure why our human natures have to have a concrete answer so immediately. So many times I’ve heard people say that they’re praying, but God isn’t giving any clear indications. Their patience has run out, and God’s still not moving. That’s when we have to consider that maybe God is saying, “Yes, I’d love to do that for you, but not just yet.”

But it’s hard to wait on God, isn’t it? Patience is very tough when we’re feeling anxious and worried, and that makes it hard to trust Him. So when the answer is “no” or “not yet”, it doesn’t take long for us to think God has forgotten about us when the truth is that God is really working on getting all those ducks lined up so that when your request is granted- either your version or God’s- it will be perfect for you. We have to be extraordinarily patient while we wait for an answer, even if we don’t want to.

And we have to keep PUSHing. God may have already made His decision, but He still tests our faith to see if we’ll hang in there and keep trusting Him. He tests us to see if we’re really in it for the long haul. So we pray until something happens. In the meantime, we sit in the crucible that refines our faith, burning off the impatience and lack of trust and replacing it with a greater and better version.

No matter what, God always answers our prayers. We just need to be willing to wait for it.

Get Out of the Crucible With Victory

Of course, God is so incredibly wise to our anxiousness and impatience, so He was sure to include something about it in His Word to help us come out of the crucible victoriously. In fact, He mentions waiting 141 times. Here are a few of those verses and others like it to help you when you find yourself in the middle of the fire.

“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”  Psalm 37:7

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28

“Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you…Resist [the devil], steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”  1 Peter 5:6-7, 9-10

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

Give God time to get the right ducks in a row while you sit in your crucible of refinement.

Thanks For Waiting

Though walking through fires and sitting in crucibles isn’t a day at the beach, God reminds us that it’s for our good. If we want to be more like Jesus, we have to allow ourselves to be changed spiritually no matter how hard the lesson may be. That’s easier said than done, for sure. But when we remember how much God loves us, that He sees and hears us, and that He knows what’s best, we can be assured that everything is going to be okay if we can just hang in there.

In the meantime, keep praying, keep PUSHing. Sooner or later those ducks are going to line up and God’s “not yet” will turn into a, “Yes, my child, now is the perfect time. I love you. Thanks for waiting.”

Your Turn

We all go through trials and issues. How do you handle it when God makes you wait for an answer? What verses of Scripture do you lean on to help you keep going when you’re in a crucible? Share your strategies with us so we can all come out of the fire victorious together.

Further Reading

Got Questions is a great website where you get some of your Christian-related questions answered. This week’s question ties in with what we’ve just discussed here. They address why God allows bad things to happen. You can check it out here: https://www.gotquestions.org/QOTW.htm

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