Have you ever wanted something so much that if God didn’t provide it, that lack became a block between you? Maybe being healed, or prosperity, or a relationship? Or…just fill in the blank. The classic problem of pain. God’s omnipotence says he could; his love says he would. So if he doesn’t act as we ask, then we question either his caring or his power. Or both. But maybe we err.
Sometimes we need to give up a desire that becomes a pinch point in our closeness. Here’s an example as a metaphor of the greater issue. In my late teens and twenties most of my friends had married, and although I had a number of relationships, and even prayed that some would work out, none did. I had a bit of irritation with God not meeting what I considered a genuine need, but had enough sense not to tick off the creator of the universe over it. No shouting and ranting at him, just frustration.
Finally, at 30 with no good prospects in sight, while getting pickier with less to pick from, I sat down for a serious man to God talk. “God, if you want me to stay single, be a bachelor till the rapture, that’s OK. “ I gave it up. That came during the process of interviewing at a church to oversee the youth groups and work directly with the college group, and I honestly prayed, “God, whatever you want. If it happens, great, if it doesn’t, just as great.”
Then came an interview with all the elders and the youth sponsors. One lady there amazed me with her beauty, her kind spirit and deep love of God. And, she wore no ring on the relevant finger. While debriefing with the pastor after, I subtly discovered she was single and a college sponsor, my prayer changed. “Please work this out God! I would REALLY appreciate it.”
He did, and I observed her for six months working together. Finally I asked her out, proposed two weeks later, a week after that she accepted, and in less than three more months we became husband and wife. Apart from God, the greatest gift in my life.
And I chuckle at God’s timing. Only when I gave it up did God grant it.
We can’t resolve the entire issue of prayers unanswered as we wish, the problem of pain, but we can discover some tips to help deal with it. First, understand who’s God and who’s not. Grab onto the reality that he knows far more than we. I now rejoice that none of those earlier requests became reality. And, rely on his love and care. He created a beautiful world designed for humanity. He sent his Son to give his life for us. And sometimes what we desperately ask for, that we’re convinced will benefit us, would not work out for good. Either ours or the kingdom. Or the time may just not be right. But let his loving acts from before convince you he still loves.
And, sometimes, give up that desire. Not as a formula that guarantees he’ll now provide it, that merely attempts to manipulate God, and I don’t recommend it. But decide—does intimacy with God have more value than that issue?
Kick Starting the Application
In the past, have you felt frustration with God over unanswered prayers? How did that impact you long term? How did you resolve it? Have you? If not, how can you? Do you have some areas now with that same struggle? Try making a list of specific examples of how God has blessed you, of various signs in the Bible of his love.