The Blessing of Unanswered Prayers

"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. 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 4:2-3 (NLT)

I heard a story this week about two young brothers who were sitting at the kitchen table, just out of sight of their mother in the next room. A yellow-jacket bee landed on the table and the younger brother reached out his hand to touch the bee. The older brother grabbed his little brother's hand to restrain him from experiencing the inevitable consequences that would follow. The younger brother started screaming. Their mother asked the older brother why the younger was crying,

"He wants something he shouldn't have," the boy replied.

Without coming into the room to investigate what the "something" was, the mother said, "Let him have it!"

The older brother took the younger brother's hand and laid it directly on top of the yellow jacket. The bee stung the boy, who really started screaming. The mother said, in an exasperated tone, "What is the matter with him?"

The older brother said, "He got what he wanted."

Oh, girlfriends, how many times have I been the younger brother? We were talking in my Bible study last week about prayers that we had prayed from wrong motives. I remembered a relationship that I desperately wanted to end in my marrying the young man I was obsessed with. I even wrote his name in my Bible with the date clearly marked next to a verse I was sure that God had given me to hold on to. On paper, this man looked perfect for me. He loved the Lord fervently and planned to go into full-time ministry. There was just one problem...I was doing the pursuing. I was sure that he was the one. We were going to be perfect together. If only I could make him and the Lord see that!

I prayed more consistently than I ever had about anything in my life. It had to work! I would make him love me! I would become whatever I needed to be to make this man see that I was worthy of his love. But the more I obsessed, the more stand-offish he became. The less the phone rang.

Almost twenty years later, every time I reread that verse I claimed over the situation, I thank God that He did not give me what I wanted. That young man did go on to full-time Christian ministry and is happily married--to someone else, suited to the life they have been given by God. I have no doubt that they have accomplished great things together. If we had married, we both would have tried to make it work, but I think it would have been so unbelievably hard. I would have been the WRONG person for him. And worse than that, I would have never met my Rob.

I still scream sometimes when the hand of God restrains me from something I so desperately want. But I have come to realize that if He has said no, there is something far better waiting for me if I will wait for Him to give it to me. When I have stepped out on my own, grabbing in my hand what He never meant for me to have, I get stung horribly. He never says, "I told you so!" No, He lavishes me with His love, which makes me kick myself for not trusting Him in the first place.

Are we praying according to His will? Or are we praying from selfish motives? Maybe we are not even in the place where we can see the impurity of those motives. We cannot name and claim everything we want and become bitter when He doesn't give it to us. The reality is we can't see that the sting of a yellow-jacket lies behind the glitter of our greed or selfishness. Let's thank Him for all the times He has said no to us when we didn't have the sense to understand that it was a blessing!

Jesus, my heavenly Father did not withhold You, His own Son, from paying for my sins on a cruel cross that You did not deserve. He has promised that He will graciously give me everything that is best for me. He alone knows what that is. So in those times when I cannot see why He is not answering my prayers the way I want Him to, let me trust that He has my best interest at heart. May I know that the "no" now will lead to the "yes" that will be so much better than I could have imagined.