"God does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: 'What have you done?'" ~ Daniel 4:35
The economy has improved dramatically over the past few years, but most people still don't seem to find it very comforting. They're more preoccupied with the world's political scene than they are on the rising expectations for corporate earnings. And no wonder. It's not easy to focus on your investment portfolio when the news of the day continually reminds us of terrorist threats and the inadequacies of our homeland security. These are scary and potentially deadly times.
Most Christians, at one time or another, will ask God why He allows pain and disappointment to touch His children. When we meet the Lord face to face, we'll have an opportunity to ask Him in person. I wouldn't be surprised if part of His answer turns out to be: "Those things happened because I was answering your prayers, to give you what you asked for!"
Can you imagine God saying to you as His child:
"You prayed that you could become mature, didn't you? I'm teaching you how to depend on me more."
"You prayed for more faith, didn't you? I'm giving you a chance to trust me more."
"You prayed that you might know Me better, didn't you? I'm helping you to seek Me more."
"You prayed that you might glorify me with your life, didn't you? I'm refining you more."
When we pray prayers that contain such "spiritual" requests, we can have confidence we're praying according to God's will. We expect Him to grant us, in His own timing, these qualities of the Christian life we're seeking. But I think that subconsciously we might also believe that God answers them with a kind of supernatural lightning bolt. Something like, "Well, bless your heart, dear child, here's all the faith, love and Christ-likeness you'll ever need." Zap!
Guess what -- it doesn't usually work that way.
• Do you want to mature in your Christian walk? Then expect some suffering. "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5:3-5)
• Do you want to have your faith strengthened? Then expect your faith to be tested. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)
• Do you want to know God better? Then expect to give up the things of this world that are holding you back. "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him... I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings." (Philippians 3:7-10)
• Do you want to receive praise from Him for the life you've lived? Then expect to go through trials. "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith -- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire -- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Peter 1:6-7)
I encourage you to immerse your mind in words that will help you to know God more intimately, and that will remind you that your God is always present, invariably loving, inevitably faithful, and absolutely worthy of all your confidence. Consider this look into God's fatherly heart found in Jeremiah 32: "I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them....I will rejoice in doing them good...with all my heart and with all my soul." (Jeremiah 32:40-41)
The only condition we must meet to be a part of this wonderful covenant is "to put our hope in Him as the all-satisfying Refuge and Treasure. God takes pleasure in this response with all His heart, because it magnifies the glory of His grace and satisfies the longing of our soul." (John Piper, The Pleasures of God)