Recently, I was talking to a friend who thinks she has the worst luck in the world. It makes me sad, but I hesitate to debate the point because, frankly, it does seem that way… Without going into her personal details, I understand why she gets so frustrated. But nothing breaks my heart like it does when she says she believes God hates her. Because while I don’t understand all the why’s behind her “bad luck,” I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God loves her dearly.
But it does beg the question — why does it seem that some people are showered by God’s blessings and others are left struggling? It’s especially frustrating for believers because very often, its seems that the less godly a life a person leads, the more prosperous they become! This definitely isn’t a new idea… the writer of Psalm 73 very eloquently touches on the subject… It’s a pretty long passage, and I encourage you to read the whole thing. But the highlights include:
Verse 3: For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Verse 7: Their eyes bulge with abundance;
They have more than heart could wish.
Verses 12-14: Behold, these are the ungodly,
Who are always at ease;
They increase in riches.
Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain,
And washed my hands in innocence.
For all day long I have been plagued,
And chastened every morning.
The writer of this Psalm is clearly frustrated. He is trying to live for God and struggling, while those who pursue their own selfish desires are living on Easy Street! Have you ever felt the same way?
When we feel this way, there are several key points to remember:
- God’s ways aren’t our ways.
- There are some things that happen that we’re not meant to understand… at least not this side of heaven!
- Any riches and rewards on earth are temporary; our hearts and minds should be focused on eternal matters.
All of this is easier said than done, but let’s take a closer look.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. ~Isaiah 55:8
You really can’t get any more plain than that. If you’re a parent, you get this… We tell our children not to do certain things. In the moment, they may want to know why and fail to understand our reasoning. But we have life experience and knowledge that gives us the foresight to protect our children from danger.
God, as our Heavenly Father, is both all-knowing and all-powerful. It’s not really necessary for us to understand His reasons. He, as the Creator of the universe, certainly knows better than we do! A healthy dose of faith enables us to say, “Okay, Lord! I don’t get it, but I am trusting you. Your way, not mine!”
If that’s not enough to convince you — consider this. Sometimes, God doesn’t bestow certain “blessings” because He knows that if we receive them, they may cause us more harm than good. For instance, let’s say you were admiring a gorgeous diamond ring. You longed for it, thought how beautiful it would look on your hand. You just knew that if you had that diamond ring, your social standing would be elevated because everyone would see how successful you were by the sparkle on your finger.
Let’s pretend that you got the ring. What could happen? Surely a diamond ring can’t cause you any harm?
But what if your shiny sparkly ring got caught on something and the weight of the ring caused significant damage to your hand? Or, what if the flash of that diamond was admired by the wrong person, and you were robbed and it was forcibly taken from you, leaving you physically hurt and / or emotionally traumatized? Or what if the cost of that ring prevented you from being able to afford an emergency expense you didn’t know was around the corner?
Some of these scenarios may be considered a stretch, but all are within the realm of possibility. YOU don’t know your future… but God does. Sometimes, He prevents us from having certain things because of the possible harm they could cause.
But sometimes, it’s also because certain types of success or material possessions may distance us from Him. We serve a jealous God who wants to be the focus of our attention. If material possessions would distract us from His will, then as our Creator, He is well within His right to say no.
A “no” from God isn’t always easy to take. But we have to remember that He is the one in charge. If you read my very first blog, I referenced Bible verses that speak of the potter and the clay. We, as the clay, cannot tell God, the potter, what to do!
Part of our faith in God is accept the reasons behind His “no’s” and His “wait’s” with the same thankful hearts we would have when He gives us “yes’s.”
Let’s take a look at Paul (who has quickly become my favorite apostle in Scripture; I love his writing!) The Bible never says what Paul’s issue was, but there was something in his life that plagued him and caused him anguish. He wrote about it in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. This passage is inspirational to me:
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
One could argue, wouldn’t removing this thorn from Paul’s flesh have made him an even better apostle? Couldn’t he have reached more people without whatever ailment he had? Couldn’t he have used healing as a “Look at what God did for me!” kind of miracle?
I would say no. Of course, that’s easy for me say, sitting in my home office, the better part of 2000 years separated from the life of Paul… but God told him no for a reason. Perhaps that issue, whatever it was, kept Paul humble and in constant prayer. Perhaps removing Paul’s affliction would have caused more harm than good… not only for Paul, but for the early church.
Whatever God’s reason, Paul both accepted it and trusted it. He didn’t know God’s why, but he praised God anyway, and simply continued in his ministry, encouraging others and leading people to Christ.
Perhaps you have a longing for something you desperately want… maybe it’s wealth. Maybe it’s marriage. Maybe it’s a baby. There could be any number of things that your heart yearns for… when you see others around you receiving the blessings your heart craves, it’s easy to be jealous and question God… “Why not me?”
Just my humble opinion, but I wonder if we wouldn’t be better served that in cases like this, we simply put on our blinders and stop focusing on what others have, and instead, talk to God about it. Lord, you’re clearly telling me no. I don’t know why, and I don’t understand it. But I ask you to remove this desire from my heart and replace it with whatever you have planned for me; whatever you deem best for me.
Okay, yeah — I just went there. The desires of my heart… Many love this line from the Bible as an argument to make their case for why God should say yes. They are referring to Psalm 37:4, which is, I think, arguably one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible. It says,
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
And by itself, without any context around it, it is understandable why so many misunderstand the message. However, let’s look at at some key points from the whole Psalm… (Warning, Psalm 37 is another super long passage, and while I want you to read the whole thing, in the interest of blog-length, I’m only listing the highlights. Please take a few moments to read the whole thing!)
Verse 3: Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Verse 5: Commit your way to the Lord,
Verse 7: Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Verses 16-17: A little that a righteous man has
Is better than the riches of many wicked.
For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
But the Lord upholds the righteous.
Verse 34: Wait on the Lord,
And keep His way,
And He shall exalt you to inherit the land;
When the wicked are cut off, you shall see it.
We are told to trust. We are told to follow God’s way. We are told to wait patiently. We are told that God will ultimately take care of those who follow Him. We are reminded to wait and eventually, we will receive our reward.
But even in the key verse that is often misquoted, we are told to DELIGHT IN THE LORD. That means we are to put Him first in our lives. And our motives should be pure… He should be the GREATEST desire of our hearts because of the joy of being close to God, not because we expect something in return. Our ultimate gift has already been given (and is ours to receive!) — the opportunity for salvation and eternal life through the blood of Christ.
Matthew 6:33 says:
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
When we seek God first, then He promises to take care of us. When we are following God’s will for our lives, the desires of our heart will line up with His will for our lives and the plans He has made for us.
Our greatest blessings will not happen in this lifetime. We aren’t supposed to get too comfortable here. In the glory of heaven, the luster of wealth, the sparkle of diamonds, and the “success” of others won’t hold a candle. Remember, the streets of heaven are paved with gold… a metal we consider highly valuable on earth is only good for paving a street of heaven! The Bible tells us that the riches of this world will not last. But there’s something better waiting for those who trust in the Lord and follow His will, rather than our own.
It’s a lesson I have to remind myself of every day. My focus has to be on God’s will for my life. It’s not about what I do or don’t have. This world is temporary. I don’t want to be distracted. After all, I’m the daughter of the King! God has something amazing planned for me… I just need to wait and see!