God is not a cosmic Father Christmas, where our lists are checked twice, and then placed under the tree for us. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that God does not bless and prosper us, nor does He never “give in” to our whims. It is more that God as an omni-benevolent being, gives us what is good for us, and sometimes that necessitates the answer, “No” to our petitions and entreaties.
A few weeks ago some of my students were struggling with the Epicurean dilemma. If God is truly good, how can he allow evil? The short answer is that firstly, He is not the author of evil, but rather of free will. We in our abuse of that freedom, cause moral suffering. Why have, I deviated from my starting point? It is to illustrate that when we ask for things like, “God make so-in-so do this or that,” His answer will be “No.” He will not restrict free will, as that would be contrary to His loving nature. Just turn the request on its head. Would you feel as if God (or anyone else for that matter) loved you if they “forced” you into compliance?
Associated with this are the other “No” answers we might receive. “Let me win the lottery,” or “Make me famous,” may sound like positives, but are they actually what is “good for us?” God cares about you and like “the birds of the air,” He will provide your needs, not necessarily our greeds.
And there is the ultimate “good” we also have to consider. The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12: 7 – 9 wrote, “. . . a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me—so that I would not become arrogant. I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.” God’s ultimate concern is for our salvation, our spiritual growth, and our relationship with Him.”
This was shown as well in the mission of His Son, Jesus. Even He received the “negative” reply in the garden at Gethsemane. Mark notes, “Going a little farther, he [Jesus] fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him [14:35]. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.” Yet not what I will, but what you will .” While not explicit, it is clear in Jesus’ yielding to carry out the plan of salvation, the Father’s will was to hold the course, or more simply, “No.”
We do not always see as God sees. Our views are limited, and our insights to the consequences flawed. His never are. Let us not take the “silence of heaven” or the failure to have our wish list filled in every instance to “evidence” of the lack of a deity, or that that God is mean, but merely that He is looking after us in a way we have yet to understand. In those instances let us, like Paul trust that His grace is enough for us.
For most of us, we have abundant evidence if we look back upon our relationship with God, that he is there, and that He has provided for what we have needed.