God doesn’t always give you what you want

I’m staying in a swanky hotel right now. I mean, it has a bathtub. A real, honest-to-goodness bathtub that’s deep enough to soak in. And it has a shower too. Super swanky.

When I checked in at the desk, the lady asked me if I wanted a coffee maker brought up to my room. Now, I kind of have a coffee problem. I like coffee. A lot. Black or with milk or half-n-half or cream. Lattes, cappucinos, espressos, whatever. I love coffee.

Generally, hotel coffee is horrible, though. I usually can’t stand it, but when I wake up in the mornings early and write these devotionals, I desperately need a cup of coffee. So I’m willing to take anything. So, I told the lady at the desk, yes, I’d love to have a coffee maker in my room.

I got up to the room, and a guy from downstairs knocked and brought in my coffee machine. But it wasn’t a cheap little coffee pot like I’ve got at home. It wasn’t even a fancy coffee pot. It was a Keurig! A real-life Keurig with real-life coffee pods and everything! It was awesome!

How many times do we ask for something and expect a cheap response? How many times do we pray to God and ask Him for a specific result and expect a cheap answer? I do it all the time, but is that how we’re supposed to ask?

0125151521Today’s verses are James 4:1-3.

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

I ask God for stuff all the time, and it’s normal for me to automatically assume that He won’t give it to me. That’s not because God’s mean. It’s not because I don’t trust Him. It’s just because I’m not sure my motives are always right.

I can’t be the only one out there who asks God for things I know I don’t need. Surely others have asked God for things, knowing that obtaining them probably wouldn’t be in my best interest. I’ve just asked for them because I wanted them. I’ve asked because it would make me happy or it would make life easier or it would help me feel vindicated.

There’s nothing wrong with being happy or having an easy life or feeling vindicated about something, but what is your motivation? For me, if I ask God for something because it will make me happy, that means I’m not content. If I ask God to make my life easy, that means I’m being lazy or giving into fear. If I ask God for vindication, usually that means I’m being insecure and letting my pride direct my actions and thoughts.

If you want God to give you what you’re asking for, check your motivation. Check your heart, because that’s what God looks at.

Hey, singles. Do you want a husband or a wife? Why? Is it because you feel incomplete without them? Is it because you need a spouse to move on to the next step in your plan for life? Or are you just sick of being the fifth wheel when all your friends are getting married and leaving you behind? If you want to get married, what is your heart motivation?

Hey, employed person. Do you want a raise? Do you want a promotion? Why do you want it? More money? More status? More power? What is the motivation behind your desire?

Hey, unemployed person. Do you want a job? Why?

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are or what kind of life you lead. If the motivation of your heart goes against what God says is right and true–or if your desire will go against God’s bigger plan for your life–God won’t give you what you ask for. Period.

And He’s not being mean. He just wants what’s best for us, while we usually can only see what’s good.

But you know what? Sometimes when you ask God will give you more than what you ask for. Sort of like my amazing coffee machine. I didn’t expect to get it. And even then, it wasn’t what I expected when I got it–it was better! And God’s just like that.

So if God hasn’t answered your prayers today, don’t give up. Yes, check your heart. Make sure your motivation is what it should be. And then, keep asking. The day is coming when God will blow your mind.

Barney as a kitten, Haven, KS

What does boldness before God look like?

Are you bold? Would you call yourself a bold person? I’m not really. People think I am, but that’s mainly because when people really see me, it’s in a place where I’m comfortable. And when I’m comfortable, I can be just as bold as the most extroverted extrovert in the world.

Sometimes I wish I were more bold because then I could ask all those extroverted type questions I’m never brave enough to ask. If you’re an extrovert, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about. If you’re an introvert, we’re on the same page exactly.

Being bold is good. It’s great and healthy, as long as it’s tempered with a fair amount of humility, kind of like everything else in life. But for me, the danger in my lack of boldness doesn’t affect my relationships here. For me, the danger comes when I lack boldness when I talk to God.

Barney as a kitten, Haven, KS

Barney as a kitten, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Hebrews 10:19-22.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we have access to God Himself. We have a relationship with God the Father through Christ. We can be bold.

What does boldness before God look like?

Well, we shouldn’t doubt what God has promised. If God has promised us something, we should approach Him with confidence, knowing and fully believing that He will do it. No, it may not look like what we expect, but if He’s promised it, God will deliver in His time.

We should trust that God knows what He’s doing.

We should expect God’s answers. When we ask Him for an answer, we shouldn’t forget that we asked for it. We shouldn’t be surprised when He responds. If we ask Him, He heard us. Granted, He usually doesn’t answer when we think He should, but He always answers.

Do you have a friend you can be bold with? Someone you can be direct and assertive with? Someone you trust, someone you expect great things from? If you know anyone like that, you know what I’m talking about. Those people deliver. Those people can be trusted.

How much more can you trust and expect from God?

The point is this: I’m timid sometimes. I’m afraid to ask for something because I’m scared God will say no. I’m afraid to expect things because I’m afraid that I won’t get my way.

If I’ve learned nothing else in my life it’s that God never answers my prayers exactly as I expect. But every time He says no to one thing I’ve asked for, He gives me more than I expect later on. Most of the time, God doesn’t tell me no. He just tells me to wait. And if I honor that and wait, He blesses me beyond my wildest dreams.

I know that. I know that God can be trusted. I know that He knows what He’s doing. I know I can expect great things from Him.

So what am I afraid of? I don’t know what it is, but I’m learning how to overcome it a day at a time. It won’t happen overnight. Fear is a difficult thing to conquer. But God has told me I can be bold. God has promised me I can approach Him directly and ask for what I need. So I’m going to.

How about you? What are you afraid of? What are you waiting for? God has told us how to live. He’s told us what He expects. He’s showed us who He is.

So what’s stopping you? Be bold.

Tree-lined path at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

He’ll answer when it’s time

I’m one of those people who runs around like a crazy person, doing everything I can think of to prepare for trouble or to take care of people who are in trouble, and then I pray. I rarely pray first, although I’m getting better about it. There’s something in my wiring that tells me praying is a last resort, when it really ought to be my first response.

This month, I’ve been doing a personal study of prayer, and in the last few days, I’ve experienced some pretty cool things about prayer that I really feel like I need to pass along.

Tree-lined path at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Tree-lined path at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

The Bible says in John 14:13-14,

You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!

That’s quite a promise. Have you ever put it to the test?

I’ve lived in the same general area since 1991. You can look at that as a good thing or a bad thing, but that’s been my life. And as a result of that, I’ve formed a lot of really awesome friendships. I’ve watched my peers grow up, get married, move away, move back, and have kids. I never liked kids very much, and I’m not a big fan of babies. But in recent years, I’ve had to start liking babies or I wouldn’t have any friends left!

I remember very vividly talking with four of my lady friends about how badly they wanted to have children. But they just couldn’t. It just didn’t happen.So we all started praying together that God would give them families.

Until one day when one of them got pregnant. And stayed pregnant until she had a healthy baby boy. Shortly after her, another one of the ladies got pregnant and also had a boy. And then another one of the ladies ended up with a girl. And it wasn’t just these ladies either. It was half my friends on Facebook. Everyone started having babies, except for this one friend of mine. She and her husband wanted a child. And they had tried everything for years, and nothing worked. We kept praying and praying and praying, but nothing changed.

Whenever we would talk about it, I just kept encouraging her to wait. And I hated that answer, because that was the answer I kept getting too. Not waiting for a baby but waiting for things I want out of life. I’ve been so frustrated with God at times because He doesn’t work on my timetable. I want Him to give me the things I want when I want them. And it’s in those moments that I forget who He is and treat Him like a genie in a lamp, my personal wish granter. And that’s not God.

I remember a particularly difficult day I had during that time. I was just so tired of waiting for what I wanted. And when I get down—really really down—I usually just grab my Bible and start reading Psalms. Psalms always cheer me up. But the Psalms weren’t doing the trick this one night. They just didn’t resonate like they usually did.

So I decided that because I was in such a mournful mood that maybe I should read Lamentations. After all, it doesn’t get much worse than Lamentations, right? I thought it in jest, but now I’m glad I did because I found a passage that changed the way I look at prayer and God’s timing.

Lamentations 3:21-26, 31-33

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. … For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.

I don’t like waiting. I want what I want, and I want it now. I think I’m ready for it, but most of the time, I’m not. If God gave me my way and let me have what I wanted, the weight and responsibility of it would crush me like a bug. He knows how much I can handle. He knows what I can take. There’s a reason why He’s withholding the things I want, and it’s not to hurt me or cause me pain.

I don’t know better than He does.

Waiting stinks, but there’s always a reason for it. Maybe you need to grow. Maybe someone else needs to grow. Maybe circumstances or seasons need to change. Whatever it is, God knows, and He’s not going to interrupt His great plan to grant us our good request. But eventually, He will answer. And when He does, the fulfillment of that prayer will be better than you ever expected.

Baby Hoo has finally arrived! Meet Audrey Kay Hoover!

Baby Hoo has finally arrived! Meet Audrey Kay Hoover!

I spent my lunch break yesterday at the hospital with a 7-pound, 7-ounce little girl who most of us had given up hope would ever exist. She was born June 10 at 10pm. And if God had given into our requests and allowed her to be born four years ago, I don’t think the world would have been ready for this little miracle bundle of crazy.

So if you’ve asked God for something, if you’re waiting on God to answer you, don’t give up. He’s not ignoring you. He’s not trying to hurt you. He’s not testing your patience. He’s waiting for the right time to give you more than what you asked for.

He won’t answer when you want Him to. He’ll answer when it’s time.

Storm clouds - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Nothing is too hard for God.

What do you need God to do for you? It’s difficult to understand, honestly, but God has opened the door for us to speak to Him one-on-one. Maybe not face to face yet, but we can bring our requests and our needs to Him at any time of day. And nothing is too big for Him.

Storm clouds - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Storm clouds – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Jeremiah 32:17.

O Sovereign Lord! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you!

I blogged on this same verse a year ago today because apparently Biblegateway.com recycles their daily Bible verses. But I went ahead and decided to use this verse again because I am in pretty serious need of encouragement today.

Every now and then, I just wake up feeling gray. Does that happen to anyone else? There’s no real reason for it. There’s nothing really wrong. I just feel down. Maybe it’s burn-out from working too much. Maybe it’s exhaustion from not sleeping enough. Maybe it’s the onset of a cold. Not sure.

But on gray days, it’s important to remember the things that matter. On those days when I feel sad or discouraged or lonely or insecure, it’s important to focus on something that doesn’t change, on something that’s true no matter what. Because if I can anchor myself to something true, my emotions that are as fluid and changing as the sea won’t carry me away. I might get tossed around a little bit, but I won’t budge.

So this verse stood out to me today. It’s ironic because it’s the beginning of a prayer the prophet Jeremiah prayed, and it’s really not a happy prayer. Actually, Jeremiah isn’t really a happy book at all. There’s a reason he’s called the Weeping Prophet.

The prayer, as a whole (Jeremiah 32:17-25), really serves to recognize that God is sovereign and that He does what He wants. You see, Israel was on the brink of destruction. Jeremiah was actually a prisoner in the King’s palace because he wouldn’t shut up about a prophecy God had given him. God wanted Jeremiah to tell everyone that destruction was coming, that He was going to allow Babylon to destroy Jerusalem. As you can imagine, the King didn’t like that. So he locked Jeremiah up in hopes of getting him to shut up, but, like any true preacher, it didn’t work. And Jeremiah continued to preach even in prison.

And after he concluding a bit of business (you can read the whole story in Jeremiah 32), he prayed this prayer that starts with stating that God can do anything. He’s the only One who can do anything because He’s the only One with the right to do anything.

Even in our world, we grasp the concept of sovereignty. At least, we used to. We have the right to do what we want with our property, whether it be homes or land or our lives or our resources. If it belongs to us, we have the right to do what we want with it.

Well, God made everything. So He has the right to do what He wants with it. And we have no say, although for some reason God still listens to our requests and considers them. He still gives us the chance to ask Him for what we want, and if it fits into His grand scheme for everything, He’ll give it to us.

Do we really get that?

Seriously. Do we really understand how awesome that is? What privilege that is? I don’t. I don’t think I can really wrap my head around that. To have access to Someone Who can do anything, Someone Who made the heavens, Someone Who made the earth: if we really understood the power at our disposal, I think our lives would look different.

Nothing is too hard for God.

So if you are feeling like I am this morning, discouraged and weary, take it to God. He understands, and He cares. And He wants to hear from you. And He wants to help you. And no matter how big your problem might seem, it’s not too big for Him.

 

Lamp post at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Ask questions even if you’re afraid of the answer

I have a lot of unanswered questions. About life. About the universe. About me. And for many of my questions, I would really like an answer. But for some of them, I’m not so sure I would like the answer.

So I think, in many cases, I don’t ask because I’m afraid of what the answer will be.

Lamp post at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Lamp post at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Jeremiah 33:3.

Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.

If you are a follower of Christ, you have an amazing opportunity to talk to the God who created everything. I mean, He’s the one who invented DNA. He’s the one who invented the concept of Time itself. There’s nothing He doesn’t know, and there’s nothing He can’t tell us.

There may be some things He won’t tell us for our own good, but in those cases, I’m sure you would agree that there are some things it’s better we don’t know.

But what about simple things? What about the choices I need to make today? What about the things I need to plan for tomorrow? Or for next week?

God is huge and so immense that you wouldn’t think He’d care. But He does. He loves me enough to be involved in my little life on an hourly basis, and He cares about the decisions I face, the choices I make and the consequences that I don’t even know are coming yet.

Not only does He care, He wants to help. And He’s just waiting for me to ask for it.

I’m not good at asking for help. I’m the person you’ll see wandering around a grocery store because I refuse to ask where the peanut butter is. I’d rather use up gasoline in trying to find a destination on my own than to ask for directions. And when someone with me asks for directions, I usually walk away from them. I’m trying to get better about this because there’s no shame in asking for directions, I just hate doing it.

And I’m good at asking for help for other people. I’m really good at asking God to bless other people or protect other people or to help other people have success. But when it comes to myself, I usually just ask God to bless my day. Generically. Nothing specific. Nothing exact. Granted, if I have a need–a real need–I will be specific. But otherwise, it’s back to general “bless this and bless that” kinds of prayers.

I have a dream. It’s been my dream since I was a very young child. It’s the one thing I’ve wanted since I was old enough to understand what a dream was. And I can count on my hand the times I have asked God to help me with it.

Why is that?

Maybe I’m just so thankful that He’d listen to me that I’m glad for any assistance He offers, even if it is generic or if it is directed at someone else. But I think the truth is that I’m too scared to ask for what I really want.

Why scared? Well … what if He says no? … Or even worse, what if He says yes? Have you ever had a request like that? Something you wanted so badly that the only thing worse than God telling you it isn’t time yet would be Him telling you that it is?

If God tells me no, at least I can deal with that. No has been the constant answer. I don’t like it, but I can deal with waiting. But if God chooses to answer this request, everything will change. And I really hate change. I don’t know what to do with it. I’m a planner and a people pleaser and a structured type of person (hard to believe as unorganized as I am), and when something rocks the boat, it’s hard for me to find my sea legs. And my worst fear is disappointing people and disappointing Him.

So if I don’t ask, I don’t have to worry.

But that’s not what we’re supposed to do.

If God has given us a dream, we need to pursue it. He doesn’t just put desires in our hearts to give us something to do. He gives them to us for a reason because He wants to use us to help other people. And until we use the gifts and the dreams that He’s given us, we’ll never be satisfied with our lot in life. And we can’t use the gifts and dreams in our lives to the level He intended until we ask Him for help.

So … this is me asking for help.

God knows everything. And all we have to do is ask, and He’ll tell us things, things we want to know, things we don’t want to hear, things we don’t understand.

Worrying about what God is going to tell you is a waste of time. You can’t change it, and worrying only makes you miserable. Just like being afraid of the answer makes you miserable and discouraged and depressed. We don’t have to worry, and we don’t have to be afraid.

So ask away. And don’t be afraid of the answer. If God says no, wait some more. If God says yes, step up. Either way, He knows what He’s doing. He won’t let you make a wrong move if you keep listening, and He won’t let you go alone.