We are finally nearing the end of the dog days of summer, when the gaming drought lifts and we see out on the horizon the finish line for the highly anticipated titles that have been years in the making. It seems like it has always been this way as each June, July, and August become a barren wasteland of new releases that ends with a bang as the annual Madden release signals the existence of rain clouds in the horizon. Sure, sometimes a nice little indie title pops up to tide us over and occasionally a high-profile beta will run to keep us satisfied, but by and large the rule of thumb has been that the gaming industry hits the recess button about the time that the kids head home from school for the last time.
Sometimes you have a title like Ark: Survival Evolved, which should be out on shelves now but hit one final snag on its long ride home to completion. Or you have the tragic case of NCAA Football, which was long counted on to carry the month of July but is now forever mired with a licensing issue that does not appear to have a potential fix in sight in our lifetimes. In each of these cases it is not a lack of desire for the title to exist or be completed, but rather the existence of unforeseen challenges and external battles that delay their launch or sometimes derail them permanently. So as these heavy hitters either step back or go down for the count gamers around the world twiddle our trigger fingers and play through our back catalog as we impatiently wait for something truly worth our time to emerge from what appears to be an inactive geyser.
The funny thing is that out here in the real world it feels like the great video game machine has ceased operations, yet behind the scenes in each developer’s cubicle the action is at a frenetic, break-neck pace as these days are anything but a summer vacation for them. This is the most critical part of game development… the final steps to going gold. The title has long since been set in stone, the voice acting work is completed, the marketing budget is being spent as we speak… as bugs are getting squashed and final multiplayer stress tests are being completed the last months of getting a game out on the shelf is the most challenging, frustrating, stressful, yet critical portion of the game’s journey.
What began as a gleam in the creator’s eye years prior is about to come to fruition, and not a single area in need of polish can be overlooked. Companies literally rise and fall based on the success or failure of one software title these days, so a rough launch may not only be the end of one developer’s dream… every employee on the payroll is deeply connected to the need to put the very best version of their product out there for public consumption. And while this process may be invisible and mildly frustrating to most of the video game purchasing public, those who are intimately attached to the long-term success of their game are pulling twenty hour days to insure everyone is satisfied with the final experience.
Waiting through interminable periods of time when nothing seems to be happening is a fairly unenjoyable process. Having patience is much easier when there is a finish line you can point to or a pre-determined point you can press towards that represents relief. And in 1 Kings 17 and 18 we find the story of an entirely different type of drought, and within this we will find some interesting parallels that reflect on our ability to endure the barren plains and empty skies we all must endure at certain seasons in our lives.
If you want to find a person in the Old Testament who has done some stuff and seen some things, there are few that can hold a candle to the prophet Elijah. These two chapters contain an amazing event that is worthy of its own separate column, but for today we will focus on the ending of the drought found in 1 Kings 18:41. After years of zero rain, the prophet of God Elijah returned from his disappearance and proclaimed to the king that there was the sound of the abundance of rain. And as the king went off to eat, Elijah prayed and sent his servant out to survey the horizon for a sign of potential precipitation. And… there was nothing there. Not a cloud, no change in the barometric pressure reading, not even a shadow indicating a potential cooling off of the sun… nothing externally showed any sign of this “abundance of rain” Elijah had just proclaimed.
If Elijah felt any panic he sure didn’t show it. He sent his servant back to check again. Again he returned with the news that there was no evidence of an answer to Elijah’s prayer. He sent him a third, a fourth, a fifth… in total he sent his servant seven times to look for any indication that the promised rain was on its way. Finally, on the seventh time the servant returned with this meager report… “There is a cloud the size of a man’s hand coming out of the sea”. Have you ever prayed a prayer and when you finally saw an answer on it’s way it was so small and insignificant that there was simply no way it would be sufficient for your need? Well, that’s what Elijah is looking at here. He promised an outpouring and was looking at a speck.
Elijah, to his credit, was undeterred. He knew an answer to prayer when he saw one, and he also knew firsthand how the Lord of little was the same Lord of much. Elijah took the message of that tiny cloud to the king and informed him to “Ride like the wind, Bullseye”! Well, your translation might have it recorded it a little more like, “Prepare your chariot and go down before the rain stops you”. But I’m pretty sure that’s how it was said in the original Hebrew. At any rate, Elijah saw the answer in its fullness before it had even fully arrived, and he responded in faith to it even when the answer tarried and its arrival lacked the overwhelming proof that you would like to see when making a report of this magnitude.
The answer to your prayers may seem like a dot in the distance, or perhaps they are not even visible yet, but as sure as EA will launch a new Madden game each August our Heavenly Father will always have a rain cloud that will show up for you right when it is needed most. It may not be there the first time you look, the second time, or the fifth time, but it’s coming. It may look like it’s the size of a man’s hand, but many times our answers to prayer will be delivered through the man-sized hands of others. And much like the development cycle of your favorite game franchise, the silence you are hearing is not an indication that progress is not occurring. To the contrary, the most critical work on the project and the final steps of the process are the portions that receive the least amount of fanfare and are accompanied by the least amount of updates. If a developer is talking then they aren’t working, and if they are busy polishing those last touches on your next addiction then they probably aren’t updating their Twitter.
Take heart when you see an absence of clouds in the sky and don’t hear any sounds of thunder. Elijah, in faith, heard the sound of the abundance of rain while looking at a cloudless sky. And his faith was rewarded with the opening of the heavens and a refreshing outpouring that answered not only his prayer, but the prayers of the entire nation. God does not delay our responses as an act of control or cruelty… the truth is there is more at stake in your situation than you are privy to, and a prayer answered at the wrong time is worse than an unanswered prayer. There is a crucial difference in blessings and curses, and much of this has to do with timing. Let’s look at one final example…
In 1 Samuel 8 we find the sad story of Samuel, the mighty prophet of God, being asked by the nation of Israel to appoint them a king. To this point the Lord was their King and He would periodically appoint people to act on His behalf such as Moses, Samson, Deborah, and now Samuel. But the people demanded a king, and in spite of Samuel’s stern warnings and the clearly stated will of God against this their prayers were answered. The solution was Saul, a horribly flawed monarch who caused great distress to the country and if it had not been for God’s deliverance by the hand of David they would have re-entered a life of slavery, this time to the Philistines. If they had only waited, David would have been the first king and would have spared them a great deal of problems. So we see that a prayer answered in the wrong time can be worse than the situation we currently occupy, and while we may see a clear solution to our predicament, the Lord sees all of the spinning wheels and is determined not to release the response until the fullness of time has truly come.
I have many prayers lifted up right now, and many of them feel like their situation is already past the point of expiration. But when the Lord says rain is in the forecast, you can take that to the bank. He may not hit your desired street date, but you can be assured that small cloud on the horizon is the proof that the abundance of rain is coming. Don’t lose hope… the absence of proof and the lack of audible confirmation is simply the sound of progress in a realm beyond our comprehension. Ask a tomb that’s sat silent for three days what happens when it finally becomes time for the stone to move…