God’s Best for You

by Karen Wingate

This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. Isaiah 58:17 NIV

My 16-month-old grandson recently brought his dad for a 3-day visit while Major Mama did a two-week work trip (TDY) with the military. He quickly discovered the bottom kitchen utensil drawer and had a great time pulling out measuring cups, plastic funnels, and—Uh-Oh—my long-handled meat fork. I guess my house wasn’t as baby proof as I thought.

Being the good grandma that I am, I distracted him with the measuring cups and attempted to remove the meat fork from his fist. At first, his grip tightened. Come on, Buddy-Boy, don’t make me make you cry, my heart implored. With more “redirecting,” the fork soon found a higher home.

Grandson wanted that fork. To him, it looked and felt interesting. As Grandma though, I knew what was best for him. I knew the way he should play. Measuring cups and plastic funnels are non-traditional toys but safe; metal two-pronged meat forks are not. It would be inappropriate and defiant for him to insist on holding on to that fork.

My Bible reading in Isaiah 48 reminded me that sometimes my prayers are like my grandson’s desire for new toys. I see shiny, attractive things that I want. Possessions and accomplishments that I think would be really cool. So I ask for them. But, knowing He has something better in mind for me, God sometimes withholds what I want. If I’m listening, His Holy Spirit redirects me toward those better things or simply reminds me to trust that God wants what is best for me, even if I don’t understand.

There have been times (and I imagine there will be more times) when I tighten my grip on my original request. I may even make a frowny face at God, accusing Him of unnecessary delays or complications. I suspect I’m not the only one who has had the gall to question God’s love for me when He doesn’t let me have what I want, or even what appears to be reasonable.

Sometimes in those moments, God relinquishes, granting my request, so He can teach me the hard way that it wasn’t such a good idea after all. And He will grieve that I missed out on the riches of His peace and righteousness because of my obstinate will (Isaiah 48:18, 19).

The Bible says it so clearly: God wants to teach us what is best for us. I admit, the hard part is knowing what is best. How can I know whether what I request is God’s best?

We can work toward aligning our requests with the will of God in two ways.

First, ask. James 1:5, 6 tells us that if anyone lacks wisdom, ask, and God will generously give it to us.

We can also observe. The next time God doesn’t instantly answer in the affirmative to your request, pay attention to what else is happening. How does He provide for you in the meantime? How does He sustain you through the trial? How does He become more real to those watching you go through your tough time? How do you become stronger and grow closer to Him by not getting what you asked for? Finally, what does God give you instead that is bigger, better and yes, His best for you?

So, the next time I—or you—feel compelled to pray for something we want, here is a way we could pray.

“Lord, I want this, but I realize my judgement and experience may be as limited as that of a 16-month-old toddler. I ask that You give me what is best for me. And, while You’re at it, would You teach me why this is best so I can ask more in line with Your will the next time?”

God loves you so much. Even if it means making you temporarily unhappy because you didn’t get what you thought you needed, He wants to give you His very best.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Author, speaker, and Bible study leader Karen Wingate loves to brag on how she sees God working in the world. Karen is a veteran writer of 30 years, writing Christian education curriculum, magazine articles, and contributions to devotional guides and compilation books. Read about her latest sighting at www.karenwingate.com/blog.

Karen’s book, With Fresh Eyes, gives a fresh look at God, His creation, and people through the eyes of someone who is seeing the details of her world for the first time. It will challenge you to pause, ponder, and praise God for all His good gifts.

Join the conversation: Have you ever regretting receiving something you asked God for?

Loving Till They Change

by Karen Wingate

Preach the word, be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 2 Timothy 4:2 NIV

Shortly after my husband retired, we moved into a gated senior community. Early on, we headed for a clubhouse-sponsored event of beanbag baseball. We just wanted to observe and meet new people. We arrived amid cheers, and folks quickly maneuvered us on to separate teams.

As I approached the throw line for the first time, I gave Jack a desperate look. I knew nothing about the game, and, with a lifelong visual impairment, I couldn’t see the holes in the board, much less the words marking their different values. Observing my clumsy attempts, the crowd shouted encouragement and instructions: “Aim higher.” “Throw more to the right.”

My arm fell to my side. Even though a surgery had doubled the vision in one eye after fifty years of legal blindness, I had little experience in throwing anything. I truly did not know to aim a handheld missile. Telling me, “do this,” did not communicate HOW to “do this.”

After my second strike-out, I tried to explain to my bench mates about my vision, but they kept up a drawn-out barrage of comments and suggestions.  I so wanted to just stand up and leave this miserable situation, but then the entire community would wonder, “What’s she so upset about?’

Determined to push back gathering tears and be proactive, I asked on my third round if I could move up closer to the board. The team coordinator caught my need and said “Sure.” I promptly threw the beanbag into the hole marked “Out.” But I did get it in a hole. And my bench mates got the message.

“Duh!” one woman said, hitting her fist against her head. “You can’t see. You tried to tell us, but we weren’t listening.” She slapped her forehead again. “I’m so sorry,” she apologized.

I wonder if mature Christians are guilty of treating fledgling believers the same way, as we try to encourage them in their new faith. Hasn’t everyone heard the story of David and Bathsheba? No, and if they had, it was mostly likely not according to the biblical record.

Don’t they know they shouldn’t live together outside the context of marriage? Not if they’ve been immersed in a society that sees no issue with that.

Those neighborhood children, straight off the street—didn’t their parents teach them they shouldn’t run in a church? Shouldn’t they know to sit quietly through an hour long, foreign-to-them worship service? No. They don’t know. They truly do not know. It’s likely that their home life is so chaotic and dysfunctional, no one has stopped to teach them those kind of social skills.

Whether we’re proclaiming God’s Word outside of church or mingling with outsiders inside the community of believers, Paul’s words to teach with patience apply to all of us. Perhaps we need to stop our litany of well-meaning instructions and ask questions, observe, and praise the best they are doing. 

We can stop to remember what it was like when we first met Christ, assess what we didn’t know back then, and blush at how long it took us to understand and apply certain aspects of Christ’s character.

We matured by following the example and gentle encouragement of more experienced believers, and those who come behind us will do the same if we let them.

I like what Dr. Marion Henderson, my husband’s ministry mentor, once said: “Love them till they change.” We offer new believers the greatest encouragement to their efforts to become more Christlike when we accept them as they are and love them as they learn (1 Peter 1:22).

Meanwhile, do you think I might find someone who can show me how to throw a beanbag?

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Through continued encouragement from her new friends, Karen Wingate has learned to aim a bean bag in the right direction. In turn, she and her husband Jack are noticing a softening and growing response to their faith witness in their new community. Karen is a speaker and author. Her new book, With Fresh Eyes: 60 Insights into the Miraculously Ordinary from a Woman Born Blind, releases in October 2021.

Join the conversation: How have you encouraged new believers in Christ?

Sweet Words to a Stressed-Out World

by Karen Wingate

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”  Proverbs 12:25 NIV

I feel rather s­orry for Amazon workers.

Recently, my husband and I moved from an isolated rural setting to a big city with an Amazon distribution center three miles from our home. Within 24 hours after placing our first order, an Amazon delivery truck stopped at our driveway. Ah! That’s how Amazon could boast, “25,000 items delivered to your doorstep in two hours.” I could get used to this, I thought.

That’s the problem. I hope I don’t get used to it.

Our hurry-up society likes to push us to new records and accomplishments. Lunch at the speed of a microwave. Athletic record setting for faster times and higher scores. High tech music performances that make a performer wannabe feel inadequate because it’s not perfect enough.

For years we’ve been told to reach higher, try harder, and run faster.  Is faster really better? Is better and more any more perfect?  And what if, at our accelerated pace, we’re running in the wrong direction? Attaining what was never meant to be ours?

In the case of speedy delivery Amazon service, what’s the tradeoff? Stressed out workers who are asked to do the impossible. A society who learns they don’t have to wait for anything and who forgets the impact our convenience has on others.

Our world’s incessant demand for more, better, and faster is not the lifestyle God intended us to have. The Bible tells me to trust God for my needs (Proverbs 3:5), wait on Him (Psalm 27:14), and put the needs of others before myself (Romans 12:10).

As a Christian, how then should you live? It might feel like you are swimming upstream, but determine in your own life to view time, perfection, and accomplishment from God’s view. You also have a fabulous opportunity to minister to the people around you who are worn out from their high demand world. A few words of kindness will be enough to show them not everyone expects them to kick up their performance by a notch or more.

Words like:

  • “Take your time.”
  • “That’s okay. You did your best.”
  • “You go ahead. I can wait.”
  • “How can I help you?”
  • “Thanks for going the extra mile for me.”
  • “You did a great job.”

Will our reassuring words do any good toward relieving stress? Yes. They will. A lot. Your kindness and concern have the potential to reverberate for perhaps the span of a lifetime.

I was a young, anxious teenager when I went shopping one day with my sweet Aunt Charlotte. I freaked at the line of people behind me in the checkout line, and in grabbing my change, I fumbled coins and became even more distressed.

Aunt Charlotte’s voice murmured in my ear. “Stand where you are. Put your money in your wallet now. Take your time. They’ll wait for you.” Her kind words taught me that haste really does make waste, doing a job well is more important than doing it fast, and to resist assuming that other people won’t wait for me.

Gracious words that allow time, space, and room for mistakes may not sound like much, but they will stand out in stark contrast to the constant barrage of a do-better, move-faster world. Your sweet words will make your listener feel like someone has lifted weights from their shoulders; they’ll feel reenergized to keep moving forward.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Karen Wingate is learning to take life at a slower pace after her husband retired from 33 years of located church ministry. She is author of the soon to be released book, “With Fresh Eyes: 60 Insights into the Miraculously Ordinary from a Woman Born Blind,” published by Kregel.

Join the conversation: What gracious words and acts can you express to diffuse the stress in those around you?