The structure of the short story "God Sees the Truth, But Waits" by Leo Tolstoy consists of two major events in the life of Ivan Dmitrich Aksionov, a Russian merchant. In the first part of the story, he is young and handsome and has a wife and family. He sets off for a trade fair. On the way, he is falsely accused of committing a murder and arrested. Because the murder weapon is found in his luggage, he is unable to defend himself. After a final tearful farewell to his wife, Aksionov is sent off to a hard labor camp in Siberia.
The next incident takes place twenty-six years later. Aksionov is still in the Siberian prison camp. He is now old and gray. A prisoner named Makar, who turns out to be the real murderer, arrives. Aksionov finds out that Makar is the man who really killed the other merchant twenty-six years ago. Makar digs an escape tunnel, and Aksionov knows it but does not turn him in. The repentant Makar confesses to the crime, but by the time Aksionov's pardon arrives, he has already died.
Although Tolstoy was eventually excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church, he was a deeply religious man, and this story is a reflection of his strongly held beliefs. To understand the proverb that comprises the title of this story, we have to consider God as a central but unseen character. After Aksionov's imprisonment in Siberia, he buys a book called The Lives of the Saints and prays often. He is respected by the prison authorities and by his fellow prisoners. However, deep in his heart he carries the pain of his unjust arrest and imprisonment. That's why when he finds out that Makar is the real killer, he becomes so angry and miserable. He does not find peace until he decides to forgive Makar and not turn him in. Makar, in turn, decides to confess to the authorities so that Aksionov can be freed.
It would be simplistic to claim that the title of the story means that truth eventually wins out over falsehood, because in a materialistic sense, this does not happen. Although the truth does come out, Aksionov never gets to enjoy his freedom. He dies in prison. The title "God Sees the Truth, But Waits" has mainly a spiritual application in this story. The real triumph is when Aksionov lets go of his anger and misery, proclaims to Makar that "God will forgive you," and finds peace. His heart grows light, the desire to return home leaves him, and he only longs for death. In reference to the title, God sees the truth that Aksionov will only find peace when he lets go of his anger and misery, but he waits for Aksionov to see this for himself.