What to do when God says, "Not Yet"
I applied to a dream job and I thought there were only two possible outcomes. Option one: I would get the job, buy myself a new cute blazer, and start waking up a little bit earlier. Option two: I wouldn't get the job, I'd buy myself an iced coffee to mourn, and I'd phone a friend for a pep talk.
While I waited for my answer, knowing it had to be one of those two options, I repeatedly prayed a scripture that I first found in Mark Batterson's book on prayer, The Circle Maker. I prayed, "What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open." Revelation 3:7 I confidently awaited to be greeted by my wide open door.
Then an option I didn't see coming happened and incredibly, I ended up in some sort of spiritual no man's land or as I saw it, stranded in the hallway.
What happened to my open door?
A popular expression is that God's answer to our prayers is "yes," "no," or "not yet." To me, this feels a little like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. While I wandered in my hallway knocking on doors, I wanted to know why I was there and why God wasn't answering. To me, it didn't fall in the "not yet" category, it felt unfair. But God isn't unfair, He is just. What do we do with that?
God is just, but people aren't
I'll say it so you can too–living in a fallen world just sucks. I mean it. I hate seeing people struggling with sickness, in chaotic relationships, and with discouraged spirits. The reality is that life is not fair. Sometimes, things feel hopeless. Sometimes we feel abandoned, hurt, forgotten, and alone. But just because we feel it doesn't mean it's true.
I'm not going to tell you that your feelings can't be trusted by the way, I actually think God made us to be feelers because our feelings are clues.
I think we can honor our feelings by acknowledging them and processing them, and then relying on God. Your emotions are telling you something, and with the Holy Spirit guiding us into truth, we should listen.
We don't have to flex spiritually and "muscle up" to push through our complicated emotions. We invite the Spirit of God to evaluate with us, echoing this prayer, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" Psalm 139:23-24
The truth is feeling abandoned, rejected, hurt or angry is hard; but we are never for a moment left alone.
Why God says not yet
I prayed and prayed for that door to open and at the time, I felt confused when I didn't get an open door or a closed door, I was kind of left to hang out.
A "not yet" from God doesn't mean you're ignored; it's actually a sign that He's doing something incredibly intentional in your life and for a specific timeframe. I know this because God's character never changes and He does this repeatedly in the Bible.
The Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness not to give Him a "not yet" but to allow Him to intentionally resist the devil three times before His ministry (Matthew 4). This isn't a passive moment in scripture, it's an incredibly intentional warfare infused moment with fasting and angelic visits. Not at all in line with the "not yet" answers to prayer we might picture.
Usually, a "not yet" comes after a promise is given, and before the promise is fulfilled.
This isn't something that will go on forever, it's something that God has a set timeframe for and we are meant to be active participants in what He is doing. It's not a season of waiting. It's a season of preparing.
What to do in the meantime
When I continually prayed for this open door I realized years later what I'd actually prayed for was opened to me, it was just opened at a different time and down the hall past a corner that I couldn't see. But God saw, and He was continually pushing me forward to keep me moving in the right direction.
In a preparation season, we might have a promise that feels vague and allusive and we have to faithfully walk toward it even though it's somewhere in the distance and we can't see it.
Here are the things I think are most helpful when you're preparing (you can say "waiting" if you want to, but I think our "waiting" seasons require way more active participation than we realize...)
Surround yourself with the right people
Pray, fast, and resist temptation
Build an altar to remember what God said
When you're waiting on a promise, reevaluate your trusted circle and surround yourself with people of faith who will point you toward the goodness of God. Follow Jesus' example with prayer and fasting, and resist temptation. Temptation might not be an obvious sin; it might be rejecting unbelief. Follow the Old Testament example and build an altar, or give yourself a tangible reminder of the promise God spoke (Genesis 12:7).
If God says, "not yet" or if you feel like you're somewhere in between a promise from God and the fulfillment of that promise, it's not to just let you hang out and wait passively.
It's because there is something specific in this season that is requiring your full attention and devotion. Give your present moment to God as you prepare for what's next. He will show you the open door and you should prepare for it with expectancy.