Lately, I have come up to many situations where the conversation with people has boiled down to God’s ability and His willingness to do something (really anything).
There are a few passages of scripture where Jesus clearly says, ask anything in my name and you will get it:
“In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you.” – John 16:23
The problem is later, we see Paul ASK three times, and God simply tells him no, and why He is saying no:
“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!
Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong”. –2 Corinthians 12:7-10
I want to really quickly draw your attention to a few things. First off, God just said no. Secondly, Paul ends his thought by saying that he is content over a plethora of things.. Some of which could be menial: distresses and difficulties.
Nowhere in that passage does Paul say that if he just presses into Christ more, that will solve it/fix it/undo the situation. No amount of prayer is fixing this sucker. He is stuck, and God tells him that is good enough for him at this time.
So, just in those two passages it seems like there is a contradiction; yet, that is not at all what I see. I view these as the beautifully complex perspective of God, and our invitation into Him, and our story with Him.
From my perspective (and the view from which this post is written), literally every single thing in the Bible actually is and was exactly as it is written… That makes the story CRAZY. Seriously. And, the story is intense, and complex, and dynamic. Why would God be anything less than those same things?.. Yet, He is also never-changing. So, it cannot be said then that the “angry” God of the Old Testament is different from the “loving” one in the New Testament because stepping back and looking at the whole thing, you realize the entire story is showing us how complex He really is.
So, complex and dynamic… That is why comparing John 16 and 2 Corinthians 12 is fabulously difficult.
The first thing that I know from this is that, in John 16, Jesus is telling us to stand before God and ask for anything. Nothing is to big or too small, God wants and is able to answer anything. So, tell Him what we want, need, and desire.. because while Jesus said, “…for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:8b) God also invites us into a relationship with Him.
Why? What is the purpose of asking if God already knows right?…
I firmly believe that it is more for our benefit and growth than anything else. Because if you do not know, do not ask for it, and somehow it magically appears in your life, it is exactly that, coincidence or magic. The need or want ceases being a blessing from God and becomes a lovely thing that has happened to you, which means He does not get glory or praise over it.
Hear me out.
God loves you. He loves me. He loves his creation desperately. But, His goal is to bring Himself glory because He rightfully deserves it.
Answering your prayers brings Him glory, and I believe it brings Him great joy.
Telling you “no, but praise me anyway and trust my plan” also brings Him glory.
And, let’s call a spade a spade here for a moment, we suck at being in control of our own lives. We suck at asking for the right things, and we forget that a different perspective might be a better one. If you doubt that concept, check out the news for two minutes or take a moment and think back through some majorly difficult times in your life that were caused by poor decisions you made. We are just bad at controlling our own lives.
So, I praise God all the time for telling me no, even when I used “the right formula” and asked in His name. I praise God all the time for telling me yes because no matter what or how I pray, I recognize that I need God’s plan more than anything else.
God CAN answer ANY of your prayers, He is able to, and He actually WANTS to. The difference is, He does not promise to ALWAYS. Only a loving God would tell us: “no, and it’s none of your business why” regularly. Just like any good parent tells their child no regularly.
God CAN bring me a husband at any time. He wants to, I truly believe that, but, He also has not promised it to me, and He certainly has not told me the timing behind His plans. So, as much as it sucks often, I do not regret following Him or seeking contentment in His timing and plan.
God CAN heal you and he WANTS to. But, He will not always because sometimes His answer is simply “no.” And, I believe in those moments, when the no hurts, and causes ridiculous amounts of pain and grief in our lives, God hurts because we are hurting. But, just like many painful things, often more pain is required for true healing to take place… And sometimes, instead of healing, death is found. As much as death hurts, and sucks, God knows because that was not how he originally designed for us to live. We were never supposed to know what death feels like. Trust me, God hurts then too.
God CAN remove temptation and afflictions, but that does not mean He promises to every single time. What He does promise is to be there, unwaveringly, unending, in every moment, and in every emotion. He will be there no matter how it feels or where He feels like He is in the moment.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5