I’m afraid that my idea of what I want God’s plans for my life to look like bear too much of a resemblance to the American Dream: a nice home, a good job, a happy family.
So much of the time, when I talk to God, I’m asking Him to take away some problem or burden in my life (or someone else’s). When I ask him to bless, I imagine health, financial security, and other comforts.
But these are not the best blessings.
Somewhere along the way, God’s Word has been getting mixed up with bits of the prosperity gospel and a touch of those “follow your heart” Disney anthems. I’m tempted to think: God wants to give me the desires of my heart! If I’m a “good Christian” and I have enough faith, the things I pray for will happen!
That is not the Gospel.
Yes, God answers some prayers with physical healing or with financial provision. Sometimes He even gives us more than we need. But even (especially?) when our prayers aren’t answered the way we hoped or expected, God is blessing us because he knows what we need more than we do.
No matter the circumstance, what we always need is more of Him.
When a friend disappoints...
When the pregnancy test comes up negative again...
When the bank account is empty...
When the response to that job application begins “We regret to inform you…”
When the news from the doctor isn’t good...
When we fight through trials of all kinds, God is teaching us to trust Him more, and to be satisfied not by our circumstances, but by Himself. I think that for most people it is the hard times that strengthen our faith the most, not times of plenty. In fact, we’re commanded to rejoice through hardships, because of the good fruit it produces in our lives:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
God is looking out for more than our immediate happiness. He is planning for our future in eternity, blessing us in ways that will grow our character and make us look more like Christ. His desire is for us to know and be known by Him.
As we pray, instead of asking Him to make difficulties in our lives easier, we can ask Him to reveal how our our current circumstances can draw us nearer to Him. That is where God’s best for us is found.
How have you felt God drawing you closer to himself through trials? What ways have you found to help you rejoice in hardships?