When God Feels Slow

Don died shortly after he celebrated fifteen years of sobriety. I was his daughter-in-law, but sometimes I was also his pastor. He would attend mass at the Catholic Church, and then he would come to hear me preach. He would slip in the back pew quietly during the music without my noticing. As I stood to bring the message, there he would be waiting on God in the last row with his cane resting on his lap.

Don was an alcoholic. He had successfully completed rehab multiple times, but it never lasted. My husband and I were together almost four years before I ever saw Don sober. It lasted two months.

My husband and I are adult converts, previously unchurched. All these years later, it is strange to remember a time without God and the resting place of prayer. We came to faith after we married. Friends introduced us to Jesus and it changed our lives. They also introduced us to the spiritual discipline of prayer.

My father-in-law was often on my mind, and God and I spent many nights talking over coffee about Don’s sobriety and salvation. These were the two things we discussed repeatedly. Abraham Lincoln was reported to have said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” I, too, had nowhere else to go as I knelt on the floor. The intensity to pray for my father-in-law became unbearable.

These are the stories that often conclude with miraculous healing. God comes and immediately sets someone free. But there was no miracle. My palms pressed into the carpet, and I hung my head pleading with God to move a mountain. I cried out all night seeking God on Don’s behalf. Then, in a moment, God seemed to say, “You have what you have asked.” God had answered my prayer, but it would take another ten years for it to come to fruition. It would require ten years of resting and waiting on God to keep his promise.

When my father-in-law passed, part of me continued to wonder about his faith. As evangelicals, we want our converts dunked and polished. We hope to see Bibles tattered from years of use. We are overjoyed when they can recite Scripture from memory. And we look for evidence they have been transformed from glory to glory.

However, some transformation only happens in the next life. Don quit drinking and smoking. He even worked to make amends with his children. But years of relational damage take time to heal.

Don had kept a journal for fifteen years, beginning with the day he quit drinking. As we cleared out boxes from his apartment, we discovered a stack of yellow legal pads. They were buried in a box and rubber-banded together. Each year was dated and paper clipped together waiting to be found. Fifteen stacks. Page after page testified to his faith. He wrote about his salvation and sobriety. He lamented over his sins and regrets. He pleaded for protection and mercy over his sons and their families. Fifteen years of dialogue with God.

As I read through his journals, I saw his faith emerge. I held those pages gently by the edges, not wanting to blemish them with my tears. Don thanked God for his life. He was grateful for sobriety and salvation and a second chance. Tears blurred the ink on the page as I saw God’s bold declaration of love and grace. God was not slow in keeping his promise. Rather, he was taking his time moving a mountain.


JoAnn C. Bastien is a pastor, writer, and podcast host. @joann.c.bastien

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