I got Cole up this morning and the first thing he wanted was something to drink. I went into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator and grabbed the container of milk.
Cole started crying. It seems that he didn’t want milk. Oh, no. He wanted something that was colorful. He wanted something that tasted fruity. He wanted something that had so much sugar in it, it was guaranteed to rot the little teeth out of his head.
I poured the milk into a sippy cup and set it on the floor next to him. I did this because in the time it took me to pour the milk, he’d thrown himself on the floor and was thrashing about.
I said, “It may not be what you want, but its what you’re going to get.” I could just imagine this episode in his life becoming the focus of years of therapy, which would culminate in him going on a national television talk show and blaming all his personal, professional and relational problems on me. Yet after a few moments, Cole picked up the cup of milk and began to drink it.
Ah, the difference between knowing what you want and getting what you need. What Cole wanted and what Cole needed were two different things. He wanted juice. He needed milk. It may not have been as fruity and sweet as juice, but the rumor is that it does a body good.
This dynamic between what he wants and what he needs is a dynamic that exists in the father/child relationship. It also exists in the heavenly father/child relationship.
We want an easy life, but God allows us to experience hardship. We want financial prosperity, but instead, we’re barely able to make ends meet. We ask for our own way, what we get is anything but.
Why doesn’t God just give us what we want?
Because what we want and what we need are two different things. If he had all we wanted, would we ever have enough? Probably not. But if God gives us what we need, we already have an abundance.
Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that God’s ways and thoughts are so much higher, grander and more incomprehensible than our own. We may never understand why God gives us what he gives us (and withholds from us what he withholds from us), but he’s often using such circumstances to build our trust in him, as well as our reliance on him.
He may not always give us exactly what we want, but he will always give us exactly what we need.
Parrish Myers is pastor of Pine Crest Baptist Church in Gainesville. His column appears every other week in Sunday Life.