I finished my last post by asking the following:
Is there a place for desires and dreams in the life of a child of God? Can we say “the Lord is my shepherd” and yet want so much more? Is there a difference between grumbling complaints, and gut wrenchingly painful laments? When are we being demanding customers and when are we pouring out our hearts to our loving Lord? How should we say “I want..” to God and will we ever get it?
Well let’s start off with what we do know. Asking things of our heavenly Father is not only good, but obedient. Where we know God’s will it seems that in one sense we should demand it happen. I hesitate to use the word demand – but I’m thinking of the prayer the Lord used to teach his disciples how to pray: Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, give us this day, forgive us, don’t lead us into temptation, deliver us…
Of course this isn’t the sort of demanding of a master to a servant or a customer who is always right, but the longing pleas of a hungry child. “Only you can do this God, you have promised it, this is not something I can do, we need you to work your will in this world and in our lives….”
Oh how little we pray and when we do how small are our prayers! As we pray our mouths should be wide open – like baby birds that seem to become all beak as they cheep to be fed. See Spurgeon – Chequebook of the Bank of Faith September 30th commenting on Psalm 81:10. He writes: Let us take in grace at every door… Let our needs make us open our mouths, let our faintness cause us to open our mouths and pant; yea, let our alarm make us open our mouths with a child’s cry. The opened mouth shall be filled by the Lord himself.
(I hate to use the word BUT – not only because you shouldn’t use it at the start of a sentence, but because it suggests that there is a caveat, a catch – which there isn’t. In that sense it is more of an AND…)
But/and..one of the things we need God to fill us with is wisdom, and discernment. May we want our hearts’ desires to be ever more in line with his will and not just as a tag on, but because it is our greatest love and joy, satisfaction and safety.
Like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane let us frame our prayers in a desire for God’s glory and his will to be done that supersedes and colours all other requests.
In Cumbria they have a brilliant word – twining (pronunciation: rhymes with lining..). It means irritable, low level, but on going whining. Children are excellent twiners: constantly letting you know that life at the moment is not the what they had hoped for and that it is basically your fault. We need to let God’s word rebuke us when we are twining at God. The Israelites were great at it – I am too. Paul writes: Do everything without complaining and arguing (Phil 2:14). There is a lack of humility and obedience and other-centredness (compare with preceding verses in Philippians!). “In humility count others as more significant than yourselves” (Phil 2: 3) is a far cry from the ‘the customer is always right’ style of life we tend to expect and demand.
We need to see the arrogance and/or the lack of trust that is tied up in grumbling. As the writer of Ecclesiastes writes: you do not know the work of God who makes everything. We know ourselves that very often we are grumbled against not because we are doing something wrong, or harmful but because it doesn’t fit with the picture that the plaintiff has of the situation. Never mind that our picture of the situation is more accurate, far reaching and for the grumbler’s great delight and good. “If only”, I say to myself, “they would remember that I know them, that I love them and that I love to do them good.” by God’s grace we know him, we have seen to what extent he loves us, all be it through a glass darkly – how dazzled we will be when we see it fully!) we know that he is wise and all seeing and that his will is good. And yet we grumble rather than submit and trust and open our mouths wide to enjoy his good will.
Grumbling is different from lamenting. Grumbling treats God like someone behind a customer service desk. Lamenting – like our loving Lord. It rests in his everlasting arms and weeps. I love the description of Aslan C.S. Lewis gives in The Magician’s Nephew when Digory tearfully utters his request for his mother to be healed. The little boy does not receive an answer, but he does receive a deeper knowledge of Aslan as he realises that he is weeping too, as he realises that Aslan must love his mother even more than he does. While God’s word can rebuke us as complainers, it can reassure us as those who lament. “You do not know the work of God who makes everything” (Eccl 11:5) – keep trusting, keep clinging, you are safe in God’s good will.
So – does “I want” ever get? Well let’s humbly ask God and see! BUT – let’s ask within the graceful relationship we have with him in Jesus. Let’s want him to change our longings and to show us that we want for nothing. We must ask, not worry or be anxious and let him fill us with good things. If we need it today we will have it today.
The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
I want to be more godly, I want to long more for God’s will – or rather I would like it and will ask it boldly with a wide open mouth. But in Jesus I don’t even need this! Praise God that in him I have everything I need until Christ’s return. And that is something I do want and that I will get! Amen, Come Lord Jesus.