Two sayings come to mind as I begin to write these words; God doesn’t answer all prayers, but He does carefully consider each, and We often don’t get what we want, but we always get what we need. These make great fuel for interesting discussion. Let’s take a step back and briefly ponder each of these before seeing how they fit into the theme this week’s meditation.
God doesn’t answer all prayers. What? Why not? Maybe you disagree, and if so we’d love to hear your take, but until then consider the following hypothetical scenario. It’s 7:30pm on a Thursday evening in Swoope, Virginia. A local farmer is praying for rain as his crops desperately need it, otherwise thousands of dollars worth of produce are in peril. On the other side of town, a local building contractor is praying for nothing but sun-filled days for the next month. The gigantic hole in the ground for the soon to be hotel needs concrete poured and a foundation laid, otherwise thousands of dollars worth of construction labour is lost to missed deadlines. Whose prayers have more merit?
How does God decide on such things? This, I don’t know and that leads me to our next saying; We often don’t get what we want, but we always get what we need. Maybe more money is what you think you want, but it’s not really what you need. Maybe a new boss is what you think would fix your problems at work, but that’s not really the best thing for you. Children seem to want a lot of things, and as adults we know something they do not, if they were to get their way it would be harmful to their development. Here’s where my perspective currently sits. I say currently because it may change one day, and if it needs to I’d rather be flexible than rigid in my thinking.
Father Knows Best
Thirty days ago, if you were to ask me what the fulfillment of all my hopes and prayers looked like I would have painted you a picture much different than what I have now. There’s something funny to this as well, my picture would have been less than what I have now. To put it another way, my bar was set much lower than the bar God had and has for me. I prayed prayers with my sight set on average. Luckily, my father has better things for me.
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses
The job I’ve recently accepted exceeds all my expectations, in every facet. The salary is double of what I would have ever been happy negotiating myself; the office is located somewhere I would have never picked because it’s just too beautiful to be true; the people I’ll be working with exceed my expectations; the nature of the job and what I get to help market is out of this world beautiful. Even the way the job came to be isn’t something I could’ve ever dreamt up. I didn’t get what I wanted, I got something better instead.
It’s an Upside Down Kingdom
From the moment Jesus was conceived, every bit of conventional wisdom went out the window. Heck, even before He was born it went out the window. Trace the lineage of Jesus back far enough and you’ll find a few characters whose lives were far from squeaky clean. If we had designed it ourselves it would’ve been nothing but fine upstanding citizens, but that’s not the way our God works.
Then there are the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth. A dirty, empty manger. No multi-day celebration with trumpets and burnt offerings. John the Baptist expected to be baptized by Jesus, yet is was the other way around. The people expected their king to come and overthrow the current establishment, and yet again it was the other way around. The current establishment arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and crucified Him. Even the betrayal by some disciples and their eventual disbursement throughout the land is something we likely would have never expected. God had a reason for it all.
Very few got what they expected, and yet what they got was what they needed. While everyone was looking left, God was fulfilling His plan over on the right. If this is our God, what is He doing over here while we’re looking (and praying) over there? How do we sync up with Heaven and get a perspective shift? Or how about this one… do we even want this change of perspective lest it cause our faith to waiver?
Is it possible to dream big and truly believe? Is it possible to pray for something with the faith to know God will carefully consider every request but only deliver on what He knows to be best for us? How do we dance this dance while maintaining excitement in knowing God’s plans are always bigger and better than ours? Dream big my friend, and rest assured, your dreams are still probably too small for God. He’s just that awesome! With a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures forever.