If you're a Christ follower, I imagine that you have at least one prayer that is your constant plea. Maybe it's been your cry from the very beginning. Countless nights have been spent on your knees asking God for answers, but you've heard nothing.
Other times, you have prayed and it's almost as if God Himself came down to hand you a perfectly wrapped gift holding everything you wanted! He heard you and He answered. In those moments, it's easy for our affection toward God to thrive. We feel taken care of and loved, and we want to return the affection!
But soon, those affections wear off and we are back to the prayer that remains unanswered. We are told to find satisfaction in Christ alone when we become Christians, yet our satisfaction swings like a pendulum based on how we perceive God's devotion to us.
Paul has always inspired me through what he wrote about contentment in Philippians 4:11-12 (NIV). It says:
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
How did he do it? Contentment is so unnatural.
In addition to Paul's life, I've found myself the past few months reading about the Israelites in the Old Testament. Want to read about ungrateful people? Well, meet the Israelites! These people literally walked with God as a cloud by day and as fire by night. They watched food fall out of the sky and water flow out of a rock that provided the exact amount of nourishment they and their families needed, yet they still found themselves unsatisfied. God freed them from slavery, and they wanted to go back at certain points thinking that they'd be better off!
I am repeatedly asking myself if the Israelites were crazy because if I saw God answer my prayers, I wouldn't doubt! But I do, and I am much like those Israelites.
In Numbers 14, you can read how God feels about the Israelites grumbling, and I imagine those are the same feelings He has toward you and me when we allow our satisfaction to be rooted in God answering our prayers exactly how we imagined rather than trusting He has our best interest at heart and that He knows best.
As a parent, I receive daily requests from my children that range from “Can I have lunch now?” to “Can I go to Disney World.”
They are serious with each request and do not see how terribly ridiculous it is to ask about a daily trip to Disney World when we live in the Midwest. Would I love to see them happy and get out of my small town for a day spent in the Magic Kingdom? YES! But would it put us into debt and encourage their entitlement? YES!
As a parent, I see the big picture. And so does God! He knows the character that's built during the wait just like we know we must learn contentment as followers of Jesus.
This morning as I was reflecting on this topic, I read this in a devotional from my First 5 App:
“Where does our affection lie? To what is our devotion truly tied? We need to consider these questions carefully. Because that thing we've been so desperate to see come to pass? That unanswered prayer? That unrelenting ache? Those answers and the easing of that ache aren't the source of us finally becoming fully satisfied. They aren't. And believing this lie is a scheme of Satan to keep us in an unsatisfied place. Not to mention that connecting our faith to whether or not God answers our prayers when and how we want is shaky ground.”
Wow, right?!?! Living a lifestyle where our affection for God swings like a pendulum is a scheme of Satan! So instead of wondering why you are unsatisfied while putting your faith in the Lord, look at where your faith is actually grounded. Is it deep in Christ or is it in the answered prayers?
I don't know about you, but I no longer want to live a life on shaky ground. I want my desire for God and my affection for God to be rooted like Pauls. Sure, I'll continue to get on my knees and pray for the desires of my heart (no matter how crazy those requests are), but my joy will not come from the answer to that prayer. My joy will come from delighting in the Lord!
How does this perspective impact your relationship with God? Tell us in the comments!