When we ask God for something, we must be prepared for an answer that differs from the one we want. This is especially true if we’re asking something that we know to be against His nature and character. Our God is consistent. He’s going to stay true to what He has revealed of Himself in Scripture. Also, He’s going to deliver to us the answer that’s best for us, even if it isn’t something we want to hear. We can’t control God’s answer. But we can control our reaction. For instance, take this foul response from God’s prophet, Jonah:
But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.He prayed to the LORD and said, “Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.” – Jonah 4:1-3, NASB
Jonah was upset. God had called him to preach to those in the capital of Assyria (Nineveh) that God was going to deliver judgment upon them. Jonah saw God’s calling for what it was: a second chance. But Jonah didn’t want the Assyrians to have that second chance. They were enemies of Israel. And they were Gentiles, not Jews. So Jonah fled. And only upon his own life being in danger did he turn around and do what God asked of him. Now, seeing God’s forgiveness for the people in the Assyrian capital, Jonah was angry. In fact, he declared he would rather God kill him right there. This begs the question, “Why now?” If he was so determined not to have the Assyrians saved in his lifetime, why did he pray for God to save him when he knew what God was going to do? He knew what God’s answer was going to be to the Assyrians and Jonah hated it. This shouldn’t be our response. Our God is going to give an answer that is best for us. It may not be the answer we want, but we know it’ll be good.
“Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” – Matthew 7:9-11, NASB
We know how to give good gifts. And for those we care about, we do. God, who is perfect, knows how, too. And He cares for us. Scripture reminds us of this time and time again. And He is going to deliver what we need, not necessarily what we ask. Now you may be thinking back to the example of King Saul. He wasn’t exactly a great king. Why did God give the Israelites Saul, then? The answer is really simple. They needed to understand how short-sighted their request was. They needed to see a bad king so they would appreciate a good one. Sometimes God does the same to us. Sometimes what He answers back with something we won’t like. But we should always be thankful.
I heard and my inward parts trembled,
At the sound my lips quivered
Decay enters my bones,
And in my place I tremble
Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress,
For the people to arise who will invade us.
Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord GOD is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.
For the choir director, on my stringed instruments.
– Habakkuk 3:16-19, NASB
The book of Habakkuk starts with the prophet Habakkuk asking God why God is using an nation like Babylonia (the Chaldeans) to conquer His people. In Habakkuk’s mind these are sinful, barbaric people. After all, it was the Babylonians who took out the Assyrians, a ruthless and barbaric people. God’s answer reminds Habakkuk how sinful God’s people had been. It reminds Him that the nation of Judah wasn’t heeding God’s warning and basically wouldn’t listen. Note Habakkuk’s response. He doesn’t want his nation destroyed. He doesn’t want his people conquered. He didn’t like God’s answer. But he rejoiced and found comfort in the Lord and in the Lord’s answer. The answer showed Habakkuk that though God was using Babylonia to conquer Judah, He was doing it for the future good of His people.
Sometimes when we pray, we don’t get the answer we want. We can choose to react one of two ways. We can react as Jonah did, or we can react like Habakkuk. In the end, God does all things for good. Even those things which are evil and against His nature He works for the greater good. If we react as Jonah did, we are ignoring this point. We are also ignoring God’s love and direction in our lives. And that’s foolish. Instead, we should react as Habakkuk did, thanking Him and appreciating His love for us. How do react? The choice is ours.