The daily struggle of life can become a heavy burden on our shoulders, and often we desire ways to make the load lighter for ourselves and for others. If only we had more time with our family, if only we could succeed in our career, if only we could find the cure for cancer; the “if only” list could go on indefinitely. Although none of those things possess evil traits in and of themselves and remain acceptable, what do we truly desire? Often, we slip into this desire for “good” and pray that we might achieve these things, but we forget God’s will in the long run.
In many places, with the world as unstable as it is, people fall out of work and fear the lack of ability to provide for their families. We cry out to God to redeem us from very real threat of poverty. In other cases, some people feel lonely and isolated, as if no one cares about them and they pray for companionship. In yet other cases, one must watch a loved relative or friend perish slowly from cancer or some other painful illness, again, unable to change anything.
We demand that God help us in the way that we see fit, and when He refuses, we naturally tend to shake our fist at God and scream “Why have You allowed this?” But this reveals our true heart; a heart of mistrust and selfishness. When we sink into poverty, our friends abandon us, or our loved one suffers, of course pain will prick our hearts. That pain exists in a very real and very agonizing form, and we cannot change that. We can, however, change what we do with that pain. Instead of wondering if God actually loves us and questioning if what He did held goodness or wrongdoing, we can do as Proverb 3:5 teaches us, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding…”
When we pray for assistance in those various trials of life, we must avoid the trap of not asking according to God’s will. The ease of asking for things such as success, health, the well-being of another assuredly is not wrong to request, but we must remember that those pleas benefit us, not necessarily God. It makes sense to desire those things, as we understand them. When we face poverty, we understand clearly that going through that consists of struggling and pain; when our friend falls ill, we again understand that the suffering he or she must go through will not be pleasant or easy. The same concept applies to other trials in our life; we desire what we understand to be good. In the situation of Joseph (Genesis 39:1- 47: 26) when he was sent to Egypt as a slave, he likely never thought of it as good. When he was lied about by Potiphar’s wife and sent to prison, this too did not seem good nor comprehensible at that time. Yet, by him, all Egypt and the surrounding nations survived the famine after he became second in command. In the same way, sometimes we want something good, but God wants something better.
The problem remains, how shall we ask God for help, and still ask according to His will and not our own? While we should bring all things to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6) we can also follow Christ’s teaching on prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” In this teaching, we see that some material requests are acceptable, that first Christ instructs us to ask that His will be done, not ours. We already know that God desires us to forgive others, therefore praying to help us forgive remains within His will. Deliverance from temptation to disobey God remains within His will, as He stated. Mostly, we must be submissive to God, trusting that He knows what is best even though we don’t understand it; willing that God come before our own needs and even before the needs of those around us.
In conclusion, we must not focus on our needs and wants for comfort, but put our minds to establishing God’s kingdom by obedience to His commands, even if we don’t understand and are suffering. We may be assured of God’s faithfulness in everything that occurs, and He will keep His promises that He made in Scripture. As it is stated in Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”