I have recently added a new weapon to my child-rearing arsenal. It's called reverse psychology. Here's how it works: I give Chloe a cup of milk, but she wants juice. She pushes the cup away and says, "I don't want it. I want juice."
Instead of pushing it back in front of her and saying, "You've got to drink milk," which will end up spawning a temper tantrum, I take the cup and move it about six inches further away and say, "OK, you don't have to have milk." At that point she reaches for the cup and screams, "Mine!"
I look at her confused. "I thought you didn't want it."
"Mine!" she insists.
I slide the cup to her and she drinks every bit of the milk that seconds before she said she didn't want.
I've used reverse psychology for the last few weeks to refuse Chloe something she needs (for just a moment, mind you) so that she will want it. Reverse psychology can also be used to give someone something they do want, so that they realize they didn't really need it, after all.
God did that with the people of Israel. In 1 Samuel 8, the Israelites go to the prophet Samuel and ask him to appoint a king to rule over them. Their reasoning? Because everyone else had a king (verse 5, verse 20). Samuel tried to talk them out of it, but they would not listen. They insisted that he appoint a king to rule over them.
Brokenhearted, Samuel prayed to God. God told Samuel to give the people what they were asking for, but to first give them a warning. The warning was that a king would take advantage of the people. A king would tax them, conscript them into labor, take their possessions and their crops and either give them to other people or keep them for himself. A king would take their children and lead them into war (verses 11-17).
Yet even after hearing this warning, the people insisted that Samuel appoint them a king.
Do you know what happened? You guessed it - everything God warned them about came true. God gave the Israelite people exactly what they were asking for, and once they got it they realized it's not what they wanted (or needed) after all.
Have you been asking God for something, and he just won't give it to you? Perhaps your heavenly father is trying to tell you something.
Ask him to show you if what you want is really what you need. It'll be a lot easier to find out that way, than to insist he give it to you and have him use the same reverse psychology on you that he did on the people of Israel.
Parrish Myers is pastor of Pine Crest Baptist Church in Gainesville. His column runs every other week in Sunday Life.