If you are anything like me (meaning an average human), you’ve gone through a difficult period where perhaps God wasn’t responding to you the way you expected.
You might have been experiencing significant loss or pain. More likely, it was just a collection of more mundane but uncomfortable struggles and situations piling one on top of the other – the house purchase that fell through, the baby weight that won’t budge, the bills that come in higher than you expected, the difficult relationship that never seems to improve, the spilled coffee, the children who just won’t sleep, the project at work that never seems to move forward no matter how many hours you put in, the to-do list that never gets shorter, the dream vacation that someone else is taking, the friend who is suddenly ignoring you, the award you worked hard for but went to somebody else, and on and on.
It’s not an issue of making bad choices and suffering the consequences, it’s just life. And it’s hard and frustrating. Recently, my 3-year-old (probably after being told, “No, you can’t start a fire in the sandbox”) asked me, “Don’t you want me to be happy?”
I’m pretty sure that is what I have been asking God lately. To be sure, I’ve asked in much more spiritual phrasing. “God, help me to understand your plan.” “Give me a spirit of contentment.” “Lord, I’m trusting in you to bless me in your timing.” “Father, remind me of all your blessings and restore my joy.”
These are all good prayers. I want to understand his will for me and to trust him with joyful contentment. I prayed all the prayers, and still my attitude stank. Why?
It stank because what I was really asking God was, “Don’t you want me to be happy? Don’t I deserve for things to be better? When are you going to give me what I want?” Like my toddler, subconsciously, I was prepared to pout and fuss until I got my way. Which, of course, was never going to work.
God calls us his children because we act like children. We call him Father. He, however, is a much better parent than we could ever be. He doesn’t give in to tantrums or pity parties, but he also always has a perfect plan for our well-being.
I so often question why he allows my life to unfold the way it does. And, I commit the classic error of comparing my life to another’s. I sing songs about God’s goodness and at the same time question if he is really being good to me when I’m not “happy.” How dare he not answer me right away with the answer I want!
How foolish, how self-centered. How can I believe that my desires or even needs are more important than the desires and needs of the other 7 billion-plus people he also loves and cares for?
Of course, the heart of the problem is twofold: perspective and trust. Just as my 3-year-old lacks the perspective to understand why he can’t always eat pudding for breakfast and cake for lunch and also needs to take a nap, I lack the perspective to understand why God withholds something that seems good to me, or why he allows me to struggle through a difficult circumstance.
God, on the other hand, has complete, universal and eternal perspective.
I, also, so often lack the trust to believe that it is best for me, and for his plan, when I do not get the thing I so desperately want or when I have to wait patiently for a breakthrough.
I think about what I see, what I want, what I feel, what makes the most of me. I forget that while God cares deeply about me, the point of it all is his glory. What matters most is that my life, my experiences and my responses point people to him – that his power, goodness and grace are made clear and great to everyone.
God doesn’t want us to just be happy, he wants us to be whole. He wants us to experience a fullness of life and joy and peace that we can never manufacture for ourselves, something we simply cannot find outside of a relationship with him through Jesus Christ.
When you find yourself questioning why he isn’t answering you in the way you want or expect, change your prayer. Ask him what he is trying to show you about your heart and about himself.
Jessica Weeks is children’s ministry director at Grace Church in Salida.