Recently, I surprised my two oldest children by taking them to California to visit our very good friends. My children had been asking me almost weekly for the past two years to go back to see these dear friends. It truly was a gift from the Lord to reunite, play in the beach, and praise Him for all of the wonderful things He has done. I’m so thankful for those precious memories.
Before this surprise trip became a reality though, I had to tell my children “no” on multiple occasions. For the weekend I had planned to go, they asked to do many things.
“Mom, can we please go to our cousin’s baseball game this weekend?”
“Mom, can we get ice cream with grandma this weekend?”
“Mom, can we go to our troop event?”
“No. I have something else planned.”
Multiply these questions by about 20. My children responded with tears. Then came the anger. They could not possibly understand why I was being so mean and heartless. Meanwhile, I was struggling to keep my anticipation and excitement inside, so as not to ruin the surprise of the really good news they were about to hear and experience.
I imagine we often behave the same way toward our heavenly Father. Have you ever begged God to give you something that you didn’t have or even to take away something that you really didn’t want? I know I have. There have been a few times that I have literally pleaded with Him over and over and over, only for Him to not answer the way that I wanted.
How do you respond when God doesn’t give you what you want? Often, we respond in anger. What does that say about our heart? We are saying to God that we know how to run our lives much better than He does. Surely, He is missing something that we are seeing, right? How foolish. Yet, that is exactly how we behave. Confused. Angry. Sometimes we may even be shaking our fist at God. James exposes our hearts quite well.
“You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spent it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:2-5)
We like to reverse the roles and act as though God is required to serve us rather than the opposite. My friend, may I remind you that God owes you absolutely nothing. You and I deserve nothing but spiritual death (Rom 6:23), separation from God eternally. However, aren’t you thankful that it isn’t God’s heart to give us what we deserve. In Christ, He pours out numerous blessings that are absolutely undeserved because He is a good Father.
We serve a compassionate and giving God. He did not even spare His own Son for His children (Romans 8:32). He delights to give good things to His children. James 1:17 reminds us that “every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” Primarily, God’s greatest gift is Himself. However, in His grace, He oftentimes gives His children many earthly blessings as well. The danger is when we desire and idolize these earthly blessings more than the Lord Himself. God’s “no” is often a way of guarding us from idols, or protecting us from harm. He is a jealous God that desires our deepest devotion, which simultaneously, is also our greatest blessing.
I am not saying that it is wrong to make petitions to the Lord. We are encouraged multiple times in Scripture to bring our requests before Him. Philippians 4:6 says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” I believe we all excel in the area of asking God for things. However, are you able to end each prayer with the same heart attitude exemplified by our Lord Jesus Christ? Even in deep agony, He submitted, “not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Are you able to entrust yourselves into your loving Father’s arms, knowing that He is and will bring about the best possible good for your soul and His glory?
I guess what it comes down to is whether you truly believe that God is good. Do you really believe He plans all things for good, primarily to conform you to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29)? When that unrighteous anger starts to creep in, humble yourself, remembering that He is the potter and we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8). And dear friend let me tell you that He is the greatest creator and artist of all. He is the only one who can make beauty out of ashes. He is the only one that can bring a dead soul to life. He seeks our greatest good. He can and should be trusted.
Thankfully, my children were absolutely overjoyed when they found out we were going to California. Suddenly, all of the “no’s” were no big deal anymore, and they were thankful. To be quite honest, I can think of a handful of times that I begged God for a certain outcome, to which He did not oblige. And looking back, I AM SO THANKFUL. Who knew? God knew better than me all along. 😉