When God Doesn’t Do as I Ask
One night, when I was in college, I couldn’t fall asleep. I accidently had too much caffeine, and for hours I tossed and turned, fitfully coveting rest. In the morning, I was scheduled to take a very important exam, and I knew that if I didn’t get enough sleep, I wouldn’t do well on the test. So, I pleaded with God. I begged Him as His child to allow me to sleep. I repeated Scripture to Him: “Or which of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?” (Matt. 7:9). I asked, “in faith, without doubting” (James 1:6).
And—guess what—I couldn’t sleep all night. Confused and hurt, this experience haunted me for years. Such a silly thing when considering the afflictions of others, I know, but this event challenged my understanding of God and my stance before Him. It caused me to question if I truly knew the God I claimed to serve. Through the years, the Lord has used this and several similar experiences to teach me a pivotal truth:
I am God’s servant—He is not mine.
This seems like a simple lesson. Of course, we believe we are God’s servants. No born-again believer would ever proclaim that God is here to serve us! But through unanswered prayers, long-term afflictions, loneliness, and anxiety, it’s easy to feel hurt when God doesn’t swoop in and save the day the way we want Him to. We feel forsaken, forgotten, and unloved. But scripturally, do these feelings have merit?
Dr. Bingham, Dean of the School of the Theology at SWBTS, attributes these feelings to a disconnect in our theology. We often become so fixated on the first coming of Christ, His death and resurrection, that we forget there is still so much more to come! Christ will return to finish what was promised at the Fall and paid for on the cross—He will destroy death and sin once and for all.
Until then, death and sin still have earthly dominion. The same number of believers are diagnosed with cancer as unbelievers. The same number of Christians pass away as non-Christians. Our promise of peace, eternal life, and freedom from illness and disease is not yet fulfilled. Don’t get me wrong, the LORD is our kind Father and often grants us incredible material, physical, and spiritual blessings when we ask, but that’s not an expectation we should feel entitled to. The implications for where we are in redemptive history are critical to understand. So, caught between the blessings of Christ’s first coming and the anticipations of His second, how are we supposed to live?
We are called to wait—faithfully, patiently, as virgins trimming their candle wicks in preparation to leave (Matt. 25:1-13)—ready, as servants of our Redeemer, to do His will.
Our expectations during this time of “limbo” must be correctly discerned. If we misunderstand them, we are in danger of adopting what Millard Erickson terms an “inverted theology.” This means our intended theocentric (or God-centered) mindset becomes swapped with an anthropocentric (or man-centered) view, thus demoting God to the role of servant instead of Lord. If God does not answer to our understanding of right or wrong or meet all our perceived needs, our trust in Him diminishes. Sisters, this is dangerous ground. In so doing, we promote ourselves to the place of God and presume to know how best to guide and ordain our lives, but “[God] has created us, not we Him, and we exist for His glory, not He for ours. We will stand before Him in the last judgment, not He before us.” When we correctly trust God’s role as Lord, our prayers and expectations will conform to His will, even when His will includes affliction.
My mother passed away just 5 months ago from cancer. All my life, this was the affliction I dreaded most, and when I was 24 years old, the Lord allowed it to happen. After her diagnosis, we had a couple of months with her. During this time, I clung to the truths of Scripture, allowing its words to daily wash over me, reminding me of God’s goodness, His holiness, and His trustworthy promises.
Several sections in Psalm 119 held particular significance. This Psalm is the longest chapter of the Bible, and its purpose is simple—using the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet as a trellis, it proclaims from aleph (the first letter) to taw (the last letter) the greatness and sufficiency of God’s Word. A beacon in the center, the Psalmist proclaims several truths regarding affliction: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (v.71), and again, “Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word. I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me” (vv. 74-75).
How does the Psalmist know these truths? Why does he trust God, even in affliction? He regards God as Sovereign Lord and King.
Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants. If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. (v. 89).
If our delight is placed in our circumstances, on our material blessings, or on our earthly comforts, we, along with the Psalmist, would perish in our afflictions. But our LORD is our delight—and because we believe His Word and divine power contain everything needed for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), we look to the Scriptures for our guide on how to live.
Someday, Christ will return for His Bride, the church. He will make for us a new heavens and earth, He will destroy death and sin, and He will wipe every tear from our eyes. Until then, Christ has made a way for us to stand before the Father in prayer, clothed in His righteousness. Ladies, this is the God we serve. So, as we wait for Him, let’s remember Christ’s example and join the millions in prayer, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Luke 6:9-10).
 Bingham, Jeffrey, “2/4 Week 2 Lecture 1 of 2” (classroom lecture, SYSTH 3063 B—Systematic Theology II, 4 February 2019), recording.
 Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd ed., (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 271.
 Erickson, Christian Theology, 271.