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?