Wise Answers for Misguided Requests

Questions can get us into a variety of trouble, as many times the answer is not what we really want to hear.  Sometimes, we are not ready for the truth.  Seemingly simple questions like “Do you think I can wear this when I go out?” or “Does this make me look fat?” are not so simple, especially if the person asking the question is not prepared for that truth.  I recently heard Archbishop Desmond Tutu tell a story about a man who was driving his car along an empty road at the top of a mountain.  The man came to a dangerous curve, when the car proceeded to plunge over the side of the mountain.  Miraculously, the man was able to throw himself from the car as it plummeted into the ravine, but he was able to grab hold of a very small, slender branch hanging over the cliff.  Beaten and bruised, he shouted, “Help!  Is there anyone there?”  His grip loosening and his body starting to weaken, he heard a loud voice from the heavens call to him: “Let go, my son, and I will catch you.”  There was a pause and a silence afterwards, until the man shouted, “Help!  Is there anyone else there?”  Sometimes, the answer we get is not always the answer we want.  We sometimes have it set in our minds what the answer should be, but when we get something other than what was expected, we don’t know what to do.  Or sometimes we are surprised with the answer.  I can remember two colleagues of mine from years ago that I absolutely detested based on their personalities, the things they said, their actions, everything.  I prayed that God would remove these people from my life, that He would transfer them, get them fired, have them quit, or anything to get rid of them.  Today, I count them as two of my closest and most valuable friends.  It was not the answer I was looking for, as I wanted God to change them and their situation.  Instead, he changed me and my outlook on them.  I often forget that when God answers prayers, He is doing it out of the love and kindness of who He is.  Matthew 7.9-11 establishes that we can trust His answers, as He would never give us one that would steer us down the wrong path: “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”  So what happens when our prayers are seemingly unanswered?  God is clearly not ignoring, abandoning, or hating us.  Maybe we are just asking for the wrong thing.  Instead of me asking to change my co-workers, in hindsight what I should have been praying for is for God to change my opinion of them.  Perhaps when we pray in a situation like that one, we should not be asking God to change our situation, but for the ability to handle it.  Or maybe it’s that He’s got bigger and better plans for our lives, as evidenced by how I couldn’t see the pivotal role these two people now play in my life.  Too often, we place that verse about getting what we want when we ask in His name square in the middle of our requests.  But whereas our requests are based on our own timetable and laced with our own selfishness, His answer is based on pure love and selfless sacrifice.  If God truly loves us, then He will give us what is best for us, which is not always what we are seeking.  Amen.

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