Cruising along in your car on your way to work and thinking about the day ahead, you suddenly come to a screeching halt. Hitting the brakes hard, you look in front of you and stare at the miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic. No one is moving. Anger mounts inside you. Doesn’t anyone realize that you have places to go, that you’re the one in a hurry?
Few things cause us more frustration on a daily basis than when we’re forced to wait. But the Bible tells us over and over again to do just that. “Wait patiently.” But how do you wait patiently when you’ve been praying for something for a really long time? What if you’ve been praying for more than a year?
What do you do when it feels like God is moving too slowly?
A photo of a ragged South Asian orphan appeared in Peggi and Tim Bontekoe’s inbox in August 2008. Her name was Sundari.* A friend in South Asia had sent the picture hoping to find sponsors for the girl’s schooling.
But Peggi could not get the picture out of her mind. “God was saying to me, ‘Sundari needs to come home. And home is here,’” she said.
After Tim and Peggi prayed and sought the advice of friends, they decided they would seek to adopt then six-year old Sundari.
That was six and a half years ago.
After they first met Sundari, Peggi visited her every year for months at a time. Tim had to stay home to work, going when he could. With each stay, Peggi hoped to adopt Sundari and bring her home. But every time, the adoption failed.
“For some reason, God is letting us say goodbye again and be apart,” she would tell Sundari. “We don’t have to like it, but we can know that God is love and that He has a purpose in it.”
When we don’t like what God is doing or what we think He isn’t doing, it’s easy to start asking Him questions. Lord, where are You? What are You doing? In His silence, we are tempted to give up praying. Tempted to give up believing God is good.
In the book of Genesis, Joseph was enslaved and imprisoned for 13 years without knowing how or when God would fulfill what He promised him. The Bontekoes often clung to this story to remind themselves that God is in control and that He works for the good of those who love Him.
For 13 years, God did not lift Joseph out of his circumstances. Thirteen years. “That would certainly be a reason to turn bitter, to lose faith that there’s this omnipotent God,” Tim said. “If He’s omnipotent, then why am I still here? But Joseph seemed to be refined by the process, not beaten down or destroyed.” God used that time to specifically prepare Joseph for a better future, eventually saving Israel through him.
During the wait, the Bontekoes had opportunities to talk to Sundari’s extended family about Jesus. Sundari also had time to deepen her understanding of her home culture. The Bontekoes pray that one day God will use her to reach more South Asian people for Jesus.
When God told them to bring Sundari home, the Bontekoes presumed that meant adoption. But after more than six years without success, Sundari had another idea: a visa, something only about one in every 100 people in her country is approved for.
The Bontekoes pressed on through unending bureaucratic hurdles. Because Sundari’s government does not have a standard list of requirements for a visa, Peggi was sent back and forth between the disagreeing regional and national officials. This resulted in several 20-hour trips across the country.
Finally, in January, the struggle paid off and 12-year-old Sundari secured an appointment with the US Embassy.
Peggi waited in the car, praying, “Lord, if You don’t do it, You’ve got to show us what’s next.” Two hours later, Sundari walked out of the embassy beaming.
“Thank God!” Peggi yelled. She ran toward Sundari, picked her up and twirled her around. “You got it! You did it!”
Each step of the way, the Bontekoes prayed, “If You’re in this God, we need to see You move this forward, because we can’t.” And He did. At just the right time.
The Bontekoes jumped over hurdle after hurdle, and barrier after barrier. But finally, in February, after more than six painstaking years of working and waiting, Peggi and Sundari boarded the plane headed for the United States. Sundari was going home.
In the midst of uncertainty, the Bontekoes did two vital things. They clung to the truths of God’s character, and they took every challenge back to God.
According to A.W. Tozer, maintaining a right view of God is the foundation on which we build our lives. This view dictates our thoughts, emotions, and actions. And when we bring God into every barrier, hurdle, or victory through prayer, our relationship with Him goes deeper and becomes more genuine.
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