The other day I was talking to a good friend and she related a true story that really spoke to me.
Years ago, she was hosting a birthday party for a family member. She had opened the oven door to remove the lasagna she had made, without realizing that her very exuberant two year old son had just seen an opportunity.
To her horror, she saw that he was running full speed across the kitchen right toward the open oven! Most kids that age are fascinated with boxes and this little guy had spotted a really cool looking one!
Naturally, my friend quickly closed the oven door and physically stopped him from seriously injuring himself.
He had been thwarted from doing what he thought would be something fun…but his mom was saving him from tremendous pain and possibly death.
The result was a furious child. He collapsed on the floor, screaming and crying. His two year old mind could not possibly conceive the big picture. All he knew is that his plan had been stopped cold and he didn’t understand it or like it. Of course, his mother knew exactly what she was doing. She deeply loved her child and was saving him from himself.
I couldn’t help but think how much I have behaved like that two year old with my Heavenly Father.
So often, I have worked out a plan that seems very reasonable and perfect for my situation…but God says no.
I may not have a visible temper tantrum like the little boy I just mentioned, but I can certainly have an inward spirit of disputing. Why won’t God just let me have what I want? It makes so much sense! It’s very easy to resent an unanswered prayer.
However…I have lived long enough to know that my heavenly Father sees the big picture…always. When He says no, He has an excellent reason. I have learned that when I submit to Him, He pours out His abundance in ways that I could never have imagined and my joy overflows (Eph. 3:20). I see that He is the greatest gift of all.
He is a good God who loves to give good gifts to His children; however, my definition of good and God’s definition of good are often very different.
He tells us as much in His Word: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are My ways your ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” —Isaiah 55:8-9.
The bottom line is that God is God…and I am not. He knows all things…and I don’t.
I have countless examples of how He has saved me from myself and I am incredibly grateful. I certainly was not at the time…but with age comes wisdom. In time, I came to see that if God had given me what I wanted, I would have ended up being miserable.
If I am honest, many of those prayers concerned my temporary happiness…while God is interested in my holiness. As James MacDonald said in his excellent study When Life Is Hard:
“When you use the word ‘holiness’ people roll their eyes or wince. Holiness? That’s it? This proves that we don’t get what holiness is yet. Holiness…is the complete state of God-centeredness and God-likeness. If you choose to sin you choose to suffer. Holiness is the absence of everything that causes turmoil, pain, restlessness, and fear.” p. 40
So, the next time I am ‘running toward the oven’ and God firmly closes the door, I will endeavor to remember that He loves me with an unconditional love and is saving me from pain that I am not able to see from my limited vantage point.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. —James 1:17