When God Says No

While it’s not the most fun thing to think about, it is true that God gives us what we need but not always what we want. The difference between wants and needs can be razor thin at times and as far apart as the rims of the Grand Canyon at others. Knowing that God provides for our needs brings comfort in times of trouble, and it can even be all we have to trust in desperate times. This is a beautiful truth, but it’s one I have been struggling with for quite some time now.

When we think of wants, we think of things like promotions, more money, a car that works, the loan to go through, to pass a test, notoriety, recognition, or even that the first date would go well. These are mostly fine things to desire (don’t make them idols!), but what about those desires in our lives that are good desires, even holy wants, that are not promised to us or don’t rise to the level of need?

What about those desires in our lives that are good desires, even holy wants, that are not promised to us or don’t rise to the level of need?

I was speaking with a friend recently about his marriage, and he told me he just wants a healthy and easy level of intimacy with his wife, but instead it is often unhealthy and difficult. He sat there and was brought near to tears saying how he so desires for his marriage to be easier and that it would bring more honor to God and to each other. This is a holy desire. This is a good desire, and not something to be dismissed as just a want.

As Christians, it is easy for us to write off other’s wants and desires when they are sources of pain by saying things like, “Well, you know that isn’t promised in the Bible, right?” Or “Just conform your heart to Jesus’ and you won’t want that as much.” Or my personal favorite, “Don’t worry, God wants that for you and so He will give it to you!” That’s not just dismissive, it’s wrong. Yes, these things aren’t promised to us in the Bible, but that’s not what the person who is hurting needs to hear. And yes, we do need to conform our hearts to Jesus’ heart, but what happens when we do that and our desires only intensify, and the pain grows? Lastly, maybe God will grant that desire, but maybe He just won’t, and this ache in our hearts won’t go away.

Before I share the next story, let me give a brief disclaimer. We are doing very well in this struggle I’m about to share and have a terrific community around us. This is to illustrate, not to ask for help.

That said, the past three years have been very difficult for my wife and me. Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to be a father, and once we got married almost six years ago now, I have been excited daily to become one. Three years ago, we began the journey towards parenthood, and we’ve not only had no children come along, but we have also experienced great loss. All we want is to be parents—to raise children to know God and love Him, to raise them in a home that is safe and caring and full of grace—and yet it seems like that may never be a reality. Every month we are reminded of our empty arms and the missing piece of our family, which makes the pain only grow.

I also believe that this desire in my heart was placed there by God, and I am more resolved than ever to continue this fight to find our kids. But God hasn’t promised us children. Children are a good and holy desire. They are more than a want, but at the end of the day, they are just that—a want.

So, what do we do when our best and holiest of desires go unmet? Promotions are great, recognition is fine, passing the test is good—but are these holy desires? Maybe. But what happens when our deepest and holiest of desires go unmet? What do we do when God decides not to heal a spouse of cancer? What do we do when God doesn’t snap His holy fingers and heal our marriage? What do we do when month after month our arms are bereft of children?

We remember.

We remember the gospel – that everything we could hope for is found in Jesus as He has offered to forgive us and give us eternal life.

We remember that God loves us – He made us and wants us to be holy as He is holy, even if that doesn’t mean we are happy.

We remember the Holy Spirit – He is here to comfort us and transform our hearts to love what God loves, and desire what God desires.

We remember the Church – our brothers and sisters are here to console us, cry with us, celebrate with us, and simply sit with us in our pain.

Lastly, we remember what God has promised us – His presence to provide comfort, His peace to bring us rest, and His power to sustain us through the hard season.

There are many good and holy desires we have that will go unmet either for a season or for our lifetimes, but don’t be dismayed! Even if we don’t receive these things, eternal life awaits us if we’ve trusted Jesus, and there is nothing that can take that truth from us. In the meantime, let us love one another well, carry one another’s burdens, and trust in the sovereignty of God.