Growing up in church I was taught repeatedly that when you ask God for something, He usually gives one of three answers, “Yes”, “No”, or “Wait”. However, in my 40+ years of living this thing I have experienced a couple other responses that continue to deepen my relationship with Him.
First I believe God sometimes answers me with a loving but firm, “Do it yourself.” Too often I don’t recognize resources God has already given me that could be applied to my need, or I may know about them, but doggone it, I had other plans for that and I don’t want to change them!
For example, I had every intention of going to Jamaica this summer to support a project that is near and dear to my heart, a summer camp for boys who live in the inner city surrounded by poverty and extreme violence. Then in short order I had to replace the microwave, stove, and water heater in my six-year-old house!
I was not happy, and felt even more discouraged when there was no supernatural or miraculous supply of extra money that would preserve the money for my trip, or my tiny savings, which were so meaningful and significant to me after years of financial struggle.
But I made a decision some years ago to not whine or complain when something like this happens because, first, “…His way is perfect…” (Psalm 18:30), and second, when the day comes and I step into eternity I’m going to know exactly why He made me use what I already had. I would be soooooooo embarrassed to discover how perfectly God was loving me, while I was busy giving Him attitude.
I Kings 5:1-19 recounts the story of Naaman, “a great and honorable man”, who heard God could cure his leprosy. He expected God’s prophet would “wave his hand over the place and heal the leprosy.” Nope! He was told to go dip himself seven times in the less-than-pristine (read nasty) river Jordan. He was furious, but was eventually persuaded to get over his pride and “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, …”
And speaking of pride, I really struggle when God answers, “Ask for help.” Kill me now! Aaaaahmmm, I am asking…God. I’m asking you! Right?
It destroys my pride when I have to ask people for help. I’ve had too many bad experiences where ‘help’ either comes with condescension, or expectations of reciprocation firmly attached, or the giver begins to ‘take liberties’.
More than anyone else we believers in Jesus Christ need to get giving and receiving right. We must build honest, God-honoring, community where we can give generously without fear of being taken advantage of, and can ask for help respectfully and humbly without fear of “owing” something, or being stripped of our dignity. Maybe practice does make perfect.
I cannot predict, define, or demand God’s answers to my prayers, but I absolutely know they will always be perfectly designed to help me, …just living the thing.