What If God Gave You What You Asked For?
There are many stories in which a discontent individual wishes for something he doesn’t have. Conveniently, in some of these stories, a fairy or genie appears telling the individual their next three wishes will be granted. Often, the individual wastes their wishes or wishes for something they later regret.
Some people view God this way too. They see Him as a big genie in the sky whose job is to give them what they ask for; and they often become angry or discontent if He doesn’t answer according to their desires.
Every person on earth has desires. Throughout life, various desires come and go. Some come to fruition, while some are never fulfilled. Perhaps it’s the desire for a favorite team to win a football game, or a pesky fly to quit buzzing in one’s ear. Perhaps it’s a want for a material item such as a needed car or new pair of shoes. Perhaps it’s a desire to lose weight or break a bad habit. Perhaps it’s a longing for the love of a spouse or the yearning for a son or daughter to walk with the Lord. Perhaps it’s a desire for better health or a life without pain. Each person has different desires, but every person has them.
Not long ago, I was reading Psalm 78. This is a Psalm written by Asaph recounting Israel’s history as God led them out of their slavery in Egypt to the land He promised them. It focuses largely on Israel’s unfaithfulness and lack of trust in God, despite God’s many blessings.
Delivered, yet Dissatisfied
The Israelites were on their way to the Promised Land of Canaan. Along the way, God did many miraculous things for them. Among other things, He delivered them from slavery in Egypt and went before them protecting and lighting their way. He delivered them from the Egyptians by creating a path for them through the water of the Red Sea. He provided water from a rock, and manna as food in the wilderness.
Yet, despite all that God did for the Israelites, they weren’t satisfied. They continually complained and wanted more. One of their complaints was about the food…
Every day (except the Sabbath) for the forty years the nation of Israel was in the wilderness, God provided a special bread called manna to fall from the sky as food for the people (Exodus 16). In Numbers 11, there is an interesting incident recorded.
The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna” (Numbers 11:4-6, NASB).
God had given Israel manna to eat, but they were tired of it. They missed the foods they had back in Egypt, and they began to complain. (Before we fault Israel too much, can you imagine eating the same food every day for years on end? I used to be tired of pizza after having it once a week for several years.) Israel longed for different food. They longed for meat. It was a natural desire, but Scripture says that it was a greedy desire. Rather than being thankful for what God had given, they chose to complain.
God delivered His people from slavery. He was leading them to the land He had promised them. Yet, they lost their focus on the things God had done for them and their eyes could only focus on what they wanted that had not been given. In a similar way, God has offered deliverance to all mankind through Christ’s work on the cross. Any individual who places their trust in Him is rescued from the eternal punishment of their sin. If an individual has done this, he or she has been delivered in a much greater way. Yet, how often do we stop to thank the Lord for His blessing of salvation? How often do we whine or grumble when God chooses not to give us something we desire? Are we any better than these Israelites?
God provided the things they needed. He provided a very special food for them. Psalm 78:25 calls it “the bread of angels.” Yet, they were discontent with God’s gracious provision. They wanted more. They wanted something “better” than the thing God knew was best for them.
Supplied, but Surprised
The people wept and wailed complainingly; Moses heard it and was greatly distressed. All these people were whining about something he couldn’t do anything about. So Moses took their complaints before the Lord in prayer (Numbers 11:10-15).
God heard, and He answered.
Say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, “Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat and you shall eat. You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?” (Numbers 11:18-20, NASB).
The Israelites threw their little temper tantrum, so God said, (and I’m paraphrasing) “You want, meat? Alright, I’ll give you meat! I’ll give you so much meat it’ll come out your nose and you’ll never want to see meat again!”
God kept His Word; He sent the meat they wanted. He caused a wind to blow a huge flock of quail into the camp. They were everywhere! They fell from the sky and covered the ground. Psalm 78 compares them to the dust or sand of the seashore. (Psalm 78:27). The people killed and gathered up the quail and those that gathered the least, gathered more than 60 bushels (Numbers 11:31-32).
Yet, because of the people’s greed, God caused a plague to come upon them. While they were chewing their delicious meat, they began to die. (Numbers 11:33, NASB)
So they ate and were well filled, And their desire He gave to them. Before they had satisfied their desire, While their food was in their mouths, The anger of God rose against them And killed some of their stoutest ones, And subdued the choice men of Israel. (Psalm 78:29-31)
It’s a very sad story, a warning against the dangers of greed and complaint. But the story also can be a lesson about desires. The people desired. They complained. God heard their cries and God answered.
God gave them what they wanted…but they didn’t want what they got.
In His infinite wisdom, God knew what was best for them. He gave them the bread of heaven, but it wasn’t good enough for them. They thought they knew better than Him; and the thing they desired was the very thing that killed them.
Other Examples in Scripture
Sometimes God gives us what we ask for. This reality is both comforting and alarming. This isn’t the only instance in Scripture where God gave people what they wanted, but with consequences as well.
Desire for the Fruit
The very first instance goes all the way back to Genesis 3:6 when Eve desired the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She saw it. She desired it. She ate it. She gave some to Adam and he ate it too. They broke God’s command. God allowed them to make their choice, but their choice had consequences. Through that choice, sin entered the human race.
The fruit of the tree looked good. Scripture describes it as a “delight to the eyes” (Genesis 3:6). God made it, and all that God makes is good. Satan told Eve that if she ate the fruit she would be like God (Genesis 3:5). Desiring to be more like God is a noble and Biblical desire. However, the way Eve sought to fulfill that desire was wrong.
Desire for a Son
Abraham and Sarah desired to have a son. God promised them they would have one, but they got impatient and took matters into their own hands. Abraham had sex with Sarah’s servant, Hagar, and it accomplished the desired result. Abraham had a son, but not the way God intended (Genesis 16:1-4). As a result, the descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael and the descendants of Abraham’s son Isaac (whom the Lord did give to Abraham in His timing), have had constant conflict over the centuries. God allowed Abraham’s sinful decision, but it also had consequences.
Abraham and Sarah had a godly desire. They wanted God’s promise of a son to be fulfilled. However, they took their eyes off the fact that this son was to be God’s miraculous provision, and they became impatient and sought to accomplish God’s will in their way.
Desire for longer life
Hezekiah was a good and godly king in a long line of many ungodly kings. One day, he got sick and was dying. God sent the prophet Isaiah to tell him the news that he wouldn’t recover. However, Hezekiah turned to the Lord in tears and prayer, and asked Him for more time to live. God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and granted him fifteen more years of life (Isaiah 38:1-8). Though God granted Hezekiah’s desire, he did not use his extended time wisely. When Babylonian envoys came for a visit, he foolishly showed them the treasures of his palace which the nation of Babylon would one day plunder. It was also during these years that his son Manasseh was born. Manasseh would become one of the wickedest kings of the nation of Judah. God was gracious to Hezekiah and granted his desire; yet, both good and bad came from its fulfillment.
What do I do with my desires: Am I responding sinfully or trusting God’s plan?
Desires are natural. Some are good and godly, and some are wrong and sinful. Some are neither intrinsically good nor evil. The real question is what do we do with the desires we have? How do we choose to respond? Do we demand that God give us those things? Do we complain if His answer is “no” or “wait”? Are we dissatisfied? Do we become bitter toward God for the things he withholds or the trials He allows us to go through? Or do we trust His wisdom to give what is truly best for us and to withhold what is not?
God willingly gave His own Son, Jesus. He gave the greatest gift that could be given. Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” God is a loving Father who delights to give good gifts to His children (Luke 11:13, James 1:17). If He allows His children to go through trials, it is for the purpose of purifying and refining so that He might receive the glory. James tells his readers that in their trials they should “consider it all joy” because God uses trials to bring His children to maturity (James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7).
Why do I want what I want: Is it for my pleasure or for His glory?
It’s not wrong to tell God about our desires or even to ask Him to fulfill them (unless they are sinful desires). James 4:2-3 says, “ …You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” The key is to ask with the right heart motives – not for personal pleasure, but for God’s glory. If when we bring our desires to Him, surrendering them to His will, and asking Him to do what is best, those are the prayers God will answer.
What does God want: Are my desires His desires?
Perhaps God won’t answer the way we think we want, but if our greater desire is what He wants, we will want His will over our own. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” This verse isn’t a magic formula that makes God give us whatever we want. The key is to delight oneself in the Lord. When we spend time in His Word, learning more about who He is, and communicating with Him through prayer, we learn what is on His heart and as we truly delight ourselves in Him, His desires become our own.
How about you?
What desires do you have? Are you willing to surrender them to the Lord, asking that His will be done? Or do you insist that He answer your desire in your way? Be careful, God just might give you what you ask for!