“Do you want me to be happy?” She demanded.
We were out on a girls shopping run, and I had allowed my daughter to pick a couple things from the dollar section; a unicorn page with heart gel stickers, and a stack of unicorn note cards.
But it wasn’t enough. Each and every thing she saw she wanted for some reason or other. Her reason for wanting the thing? “But I LOVE __________, and I don’t have any ___________ yet!”
I kept saying no. Calmly, by God’s grace, to her innumerable requests. But she was getting angry now.
“YOU’RE NOT LISTENING TO ME!” She insisted.
“I’m listening,” I told her, “but my answer is no.”
And that’s when the real question came out:
“Do you want me to be happy?” she demanded.
I replied, “happiness does not come from getting everything you want. Happiness comes from learning to be content.” If you are a parent maybe you are quick to nod along; this is sound teaching. Contentment is a better and more important gift than allowing her to have everything she wants and sees.
Now imagine that you are the child. And God is the loving parent.
How many of us have accused God of not hearing us? When we don’t get our asked for request? How many of us have hated Him for his apparent indifference? How many of us have demanded with fists shaking towards the sky, “DON’T YOU CARE! DON’T YOU WANT ME TO BE HAPPY!?!?”
This metaphor is often used to apply to a child that is asking for something dangerous. Like, “Well of course you wouldn’t give the child matches…”
But what about when the request doesn’t seem obviously dangerous or evil in any way? What about when the request is for something good? Like a glitter unicorn candle making kit? Like answers and a path forward for a sick child?
I would like to propose something: that God also says ‘No’ to good things. Even as He longs for us to pour out our hearts and desires to Him, He often answers those prayers with a ‘No.’ And this is still His kindness to us.
“…which one of you, if his son asks him from bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”Matthew 7:9-10 ESV
God knows how to give us good gifts; and sometimes when He is saying ‘No’ that is just another way that He is giving us a better gift.
He is giving us better gifts. The gift of trusting Him in the middle of the unknown. The gift of His tangible presence in the midst of horrible pain. The gift of Hope in the darkest places; the Hope that He is God and He is Good and all will be made into Splendor and Glory in the day of Christ.
Every tear will be wiped away, one day. And now, as we rage against the wrongness of it all; the wrongness of war and slavery. Of illness and death; God cups our chin in His mighty hands and says, “I see you. I am with you. Look at me.”
I wish He would tell us right off the bat what good could possible come from the wreckage of our present suffering; from the suffering of those around me whom I love. But I think if he did, I’d be short circuiting part of the miracle.
Instead, He reminds me of where I’ve been. What hells He has already led me through. And He paints a hopeful vision, that is as beautiful as it is undefined. It’s the wrapping on the better gift that I have yet to understand or open.
Six months ago, during one of her tummy flare ups, my daughter asked me if God forgets things.
“No sweetie, no, God doesn’t forget things. Why do you ask?”
“Because we prayed for Him to help my tummy, but my tummy is still hurting… I thought maybe…maybe He forgot.”
“No baby. He hasn’t forgotten you. Sometimes, God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want Him to. And do you know what that means?”
“What?” She sniffed, wiped a tear from her cheek.
“That just means that He has something else in mind for us right now.”
And as the tears threatened in my own eyes, I knew it was true. And laying next to her on the couch that day, I painted for her a picture: a picture of a God so powerful that not only could He prevent bad things from happening (which of course He could) but that He can take even bad things, and turn them into good things. A God of incredible, beautiful, miraculous, Redemption. That is the God we worship. That is the God that is worthy of my life-long praise; and all of my praise for joyful eternity after.
He has something else in mind for us right now. As the answers refuse to come. As we are left instead with more questions. Because in the midst we know that God is for us, and He is good. Even if.
Perhaps this faith that He is growing in us is the better gift. Or perhaps it is something even more glorious than I can currently fathom.
It’s probably the latter.