When You Don’t Get What You Want

Not getting what we want may be one of the biggest challenges to our faith. God wants to parent us by giving us what we need.
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Lord, why are you standing aloof and far away? Why do you hide when I need you the most?

Psalm 10:1 TLB

Not getting what we want may be one of the biggest challenges to our faith. When God doesn’t seem to give us what we want, we often feel like the psalmist in Psalm 10 – that God is standing far away, aloof, and hiding when we need him most.

While we can’t possibly have all the answers for why God does what he does, we can look at some Scriptures to help us understand how God parents us, and how to work through our emotions when we don’t get what we want.

Let God change your value system

How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!

Proverbs 16:16 NIV

My religious self agrees with this verse right away, but my flesh doesn’t. There are things I think will better my life in the “silver and gold” category. Money, for example, can seem to promise prosperity, freedom from stress, and the ability to do whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it.

Other things in the “silver and gold” category for me include success, the admiration of people around me, a comfortable life, and getting what I want when I want it.

What’s your “silver and gold”? What do you tend to desire on a daily basis to make you happy and meet your needs – God’s wisdom, or something else?

Having a “quiet time” where we spend time reading God’s Word and talking to him in prayer is supposed to be something of a wrestling match with God, who is trying to change our value system. Our value system (what we think is important) is influenced by our desires and wants.

Anyone who has parented a toddler understands what I mean by a wrestling match: Parents try to teach their kids to value things like sharing, being safe, and accepting the word “No,” … and kids don’t always like submitting to their parents’ judgment. But the wrestling match can actually be a good thing because it teaches children valuable lessons they’ll need throughout their lives.

Questions:

  • What are some things you tend to value that might be different from what God wants you to value?
  • How do you think God has been trying to change your value system?

God teaches us to value humility

Better poor and humble than proud and rich.

Proverbs 16:19 TLB

One of the things God tries to change in our value system is that it’s actually better to be poor and humble than proud and rich. This is hard to buy into because I have my own desires that are in conflict with God’s.

Humility is a greatly valued characteristic to God. Humble people have room for God in their lives (Psalm 10:4). They ask God for help and are happy because they see him working, instead of being consumed with themselves (Psalm 69:32). Humble people are able to be close to God, while the proud he can only know from a distance (Psalm 138:6).

I think God knows that if we are more humble, we will be happier, and allows things to happen to help us become humble when we aren’t getting it on our own. This is not punishment; it’s God leading us toward a much better destiny and a closer relationship with him.

God may be working through a situation in which you are not getting what you want to help you change something in your relationship with him. Maybe he wants you to learn to trust him, to pour out your heart to him, and rely on him emotionally. Learning to be truly humble toward God is a lesson that may be more valuable than the thing we were initially searching for:

The reward of humility [that is, having a realistic view of one’s importance] and the [reverent, worshipful] fear of the LORD Is riches, honor, and life.

Proverbs 22:4 AMP

I don’t know what God knows

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. [9] “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 NIV

One of the hardest things about telling my toddler daughter “No” is that I know she won’t understand my reasons for saying it. When I make her hold my hand in a parking lot, for example, all she sees is me limiting her freedom, and she usually gets upset. But I see the bigger dangers of walking around amongst moving cars. My thoughts go beyond what I know she can understand, and I know it will be frustrating for her. But for her own best interest I have to do it anyway.

Similarly, God’s thoughts go beyond ours. I think he tries to work to expand our minds about what’s really important. Maturity means having the wisdom and humility to admit I don’t know what I don’t know. I can’t see everything, and I don’t know everything God knows.

Questions:

  • Can you think of any areas of your life in which God is trying to teach you to trust him and to think bigger?
  • Or to trust that he has bigger plans when he says “No” to what you want right now?

God is a parent to us

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? [2] You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. [3] And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong-you want only what will give you pleasure.

James 4:1-3 NLT

One of the most difficult battles of parenthood is watching our children fight for things we know won’t be good for them. Our children don’t have the experience yet to know that things will hurt them, so they think they can do more than they can. The battle to help our children value what we know is good for them is a constant one that only intensifies as they become teenagers.

Like a good parent, God fights this battle for us. When we are not on the same page with God about what’s good for us, we will fight against him. Do you have your own ideas about what you think will make you happy? Are your ideas of what will make you happy driven by feeling good, feeling important, or other things that God says won’t lead to lasting happiness or security (1 John 2:15-17)?

When we are driven by pleasure or envy, we tend to desire the wrong things for our lives and we begin to battle with God and anyone else who stands in our way.

Will I agree with God?

Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?

Amos 3:3 NIV

One of the most important things we can do when we spend time with God is to get our hearts in a place where we agree with him and how he wants us to live.

Questions:

  • Do you trust God over your own experiences and desires?
  • Do you fight to agree with him and what he says in the Scriptures over your own emotions?

Understand what’s happening to you

Keep trusting in the Lord and do what is right in his eyes. Fix your heart on the promises of God and you will be secure, feasting on his faithfulness. [4] Make God the utmost delight and pleasure of your life, and he will provide for you what you desire the most. [5] Give God the right to direct your life, and as you trust him along the way you’ll find he pulled it off perfectly!

Psalm 37:3-5 TPT

Do you give God the right to direct your life? In this passage, God promises that he will provide what you desire most and he’ll pull off your life perfectly. He can pull off your life even better than you could.

One thing that helps a lot with trusting God is making a decision each morning to become aware of what’s happening to your heart. For example, you can ask yourself questions like:

  • Where am I wanting to turn for happiness today?
  • What emotions or situations are tempting me to turn away from God and take control of my own life?
  • What sins are starting to turn my heart away from trusting God?

Once you are aware of what’s happening to your heart, you can talk to God and read Scriptures that build your faith in his plans for you and his care for your life.

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