His chubby little hands grappled at the dog bowl.
His dimples popped out as he clutched at the stove knobs.
He tries to follow me up stairs, down bumpy sidewalks, and into the bathroom. He wants to play in the toilet and slam doors. He’s 10 months old, and he’s fearlessly creative in his choices.
And when each treacherous decision is met with “No!” he tends to burst into tears of despair and anguish. Those stove knobs look so shiny! Does his mama hate him? Does she hate fun? Is she just being mean to make him miserable?
His despair would be a little humorous if it wasn’t so intense and total. His little eyes fill with tears and his face turns an intense color of red and his screams rend the air.
I have a strange feeling that the same look has been on my own face. Perhaps more often than I would care to admit…
Life is full of disappointment. (I fully believe it’s also [perhaps even more fully] packed with blessings. But that’s another post for another day!) Every corner of life collects delayed joy and unfulfilled longings. The job that doesn’t pan out, the friendship that breaks, the marriage that is lonely, the addictions, sins, hurts, and unseen desires. It’s not a new problem. It’s not something you wrestle with alone. This pain is not unique to you. You are not a surprise to God.
“O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.”
But sometimes, as you take your longings to God over and over and over … and over again – you begin to realize he’s telling you “No.” Doors are closing in your face and people are walking out of your life and God is saying, “No.”
And the tendency is to throw our heads back and wail, just like my 10 month old, “WHY!?! Why doesn’t he love me!?! Why is God being so MEAN!?”
You might never say that out loud, but distrust creeps into your soul. You begin to shy away from the God who is meant to be your closest friend. You begin to quietly stop praying. Or stop reading your Bible. Underneath your disinterest in sermons and church, there runs a barely conscious thought, “Yeah… as if He’s REALLY loving. He doesn’t REALLY care. He isn’t REALLY able to do this. He’s not REALLY interested in my happiness.”
And in those moments, when I’m tempted to think God is being vindictive, or callous, or deaf, I remind myself of those chubby little fingers grabbing at things that would hurt him.
He can’t play in the dog dish because of germs and well, because he shouldn’t steal all the water from the poor puppy.
He’s not allowed to play with the stove because he could start the gas without even knowing it.
Doors will pinch him, stairs could paralyze him, and toilets are a cesspool for disease.
I tell him “No” to keep him safe.
God as my Father, is surely doing the same. I know that everything in my life has the possibility to make me more like Christ.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:28-29
He not only chose me to be a part of His family, He decided that I should also get to look like my perfect older brother, Jesus. We know that all things work together towards that goal: even the things we never get to experience or enjoy.
But even beyond that, God is not a malicious god who sits up in heaven desiring to make you miserable. If you are one of His children, He extends this marvelous promise:
“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11
God is radiantly protecting and nurturing you. He controls the blessings of honor. And what’s more, He promises that NO GOOD THING WILL HE WITHHOLD. That means not a solitary blessing that you SHOULD have will ever not be given to you.
We just define good things differently than God does sometimes.
My son thinks stove knobs are good things. And in a sense, he’s right. They’re shiny, make fun clicking noises, and are at the perfect height for maximal play. But I, as his older, wiser mother know that this is not the whole story.
The same is true for me and God. I see something. I want it. I crave it. I perceive that it would be fun and enjoyable. And when God tells me “No” I fail to see that His “No” is an act of intense love.
He does not withhold good from His children.
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:11
In the midst of the agony of His refusal, I must remember, He only gives good things.
If He has not given me this, then it must not be good.