When We Don’t Get What We Want

But I don’t want that!

What do you want?

Ice cream.

You can’t have ice cream for breakfast, you have to eat something healthy.

I don’t want something healthy, I want ice cream. I only like ice cream.

This is better for you.

I won’t eat it. I will only eat ice cream. I’d rather starve.

Just about every parent of a child older than three has had this conversation. What will you do? Will you give them the ice cream, or will you give them the nutritious meal you have planned, the food they need to be healthy.

As a parent, we know the outcome of giving our children treats for breakfast; we know, because we’ve done it! There is the inevitable sugar spike, the burst of energy, then the carb crash – and with that comes an emotional meltdown because children are not old enough to control their emotions.

The choices that we make in these moments, and in all of the moments of our parenting depends on a lot of things, not the least of which is how much we love our children. We love them enough to make hard decisions and provide what we believe is the best for them, whether for breakfast, boundaries, or bed time – even if what we are giving them is the opposite of what they are asking. We know that our wisdom must prevail over their desires in those times when their desires may not have beneficial outcomes.

In a lot of ways we are like children when it involves praying for what we want. God tells us not to be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving, to present our requests to God. (Philippians 4:6). And so we do; we pray for everything we need, and for everything we want.

We also pray as Jesus taught us, for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-11). But do we mean it? Are we willing to receive from God’s hand what he knows is best, if it is the opposite of what we want? Will we sit at God’s table if he is not giving the treat we desire, or will we walk away angry, disappointed, or frustrated?

As parents, we give our children what is best because we love them, so it is with God. We know God loves us – he has proven his love for us he has demonstrated his love for us in this: while we were sinners, Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8) There is no question that he loves us and in love he does what is best for us.

We also give our children what is best because we are wiser than they are, and sometimes, we can see beyond the moment. So it is with God. He is infinitely wiser than we are and he knows us better than we can ever know ourselves. In addition, in his magnificent wisdom, he knows exactly what tools to use, and how much pressure to apply to accomplish that which is best for us (Isaiah 28:28-29). God is willing to make the hard decisions because he knows the future and how best to accomplish his good and perfect plans for us.

Because we know God is good, that he loves us with an eternal love, and in his wisdom, he never makes a mistake, it should not be difficult to ask for the things we want, or need, and then faithfully trust God while we wait for his response. Yet, it is not unusual for us to waver in anxiety, or fear, or worse yet – lack of trust. Why?

Perhaps we worry because we cannot see the future – but what if we could. What if we could see the immediate future, (the way in which he will answer our prayers), but also the long term future – five years, ten years, a hundred years – would we still have anxiety? Would we live in fear? Or would we rest in the divine sovereignty and wisdom of our very good and loving God?

We can see into the future, in one sense; we can see that everything God does, or allows, will always reflect his character. God doesn’t change. God will always be sovereign, wise, good, and loving. He will always do what is best for us. He will never make a mistake. His timing will always be perfect, and he will always allow our circumstances to be perfectly what they need to be in order to conform us into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-20).

The past assures the future; in hindsight we see God’s perfection, and therefore we can trust God to answer our prayers perfectly. He will always do what is best for us.

I don’t typically pray for difficult, challenging, or overwhelming things, I don’t know people who regularly do. We pray for the things that we think will make our lives easier, happier, or more comfortable. But, what if it is the difficult, challenging, and overwhelming thing that will make us more godly? Isn’t that ultimately what we desire?

What are you praying for? If God gives you the opposite, or nothing, or something entirely different, will you receive it because it is coming from the One who loves you most, who knows you better than you know yourself, and who, in his eternal wisdom knows it is the very best thing for you?

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2 thoughts on “When We Don’t Get What We Want

  1. Sandy Carlson

    Thanks for the lesson on God’s Sovereignty! God has been impressing that word on me lately. This was our pastor’s message on Sunday from Acts 12:1-24, “God is Sovereign over “Sovereign Rulers” and it was also the attribute at my mom’s in prayer group we praised him for Tuesday am, a word that brings contentment and peace to my soul!

    Liked by 1 person

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