When You Don’t Get What You Want
Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to GOD and cried and cried—inconsolably. – 1 Samuel 1:10
What do you do when you don’t get what you want? I’m not talking about ordering the pork chops at a restaurant only to discover that they just ran out – though our reaction to such disappointments can be revealing. I’m talking about those times when the deepest desires of our heart go unmet:
- A loved one’s cancer doesn’t respond to treatment
- After dozens of interviews you still can’t find a job
- You long for a loving relationship but remain lonely
- Despite your most desperate prayers a grandchild continues in the grip of addiction
It’s easy to come to some bad (and false) conclusions in those moments:
- I’ve done something wrong and God is punishing me
- God has a better plan
- There is no God
None of these conclusions resonates with the God who is revealed in Jesus. So what do you do when you don’t get what you want, when the deepest desires of your heart go unmet? Let me suggest three things.
First, hold tightly to hope. If nothing else the Gospel proclaims that even death isn’t the end of the story. No matter how dark or desperate the chapter of life you’re currently in hold tightly to hope, daring to believe that the source of our hope will never let you go.
Second, bring your need boldly before God. The unlikely heroes of the biblical story and the parables of Jesus teach us to be persistent in prayer. While I don’t believe that persistence changes God’s mind, I do believe that it changes us and impacts the world around us in ways we’ll never fully comprehend. No matter how crushed in soul you are, no matter how inconsolable, continue to give voice to your pain and your hope in prayer.
Third, remain open to what God is doing at the edges. When our hearts are breaking it’s easy to focus all our attention on what we lack. Let the Spirit broaden your vision to see what God is doing at the edges. Dawn always comes at the dark edge of night.
I can’t untangle the mystery of why things happen in our lives the way that they do. But in the beauty and the pain of life I refuse to let go of my trust that God is somehow working good in and through it all. I don’t know what else to do, but I find that that’s enough for the moment.
Need a little inspiration today? Check out this beautiful song from David Crowder. Click here.
Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN