Some Answered Prayers Hurt

Some Answered Prayers Hurt

“In faithfulness you have afflicted me” (Psalm 119:75). For when our training in righteousness has done its sanctifying work, one of the peaceful fruits is that we learn to joyfully trust the Father’s hand because we’ve learned to trust the Father’s heart.

Scripture tells us that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). But have you ever received a good gift from the Father that arrived in a package that appeared to be anything but good?

Jesus came into the world to make the Father known to all whom “he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:1218). He came to help us “see what kind of love the Father has given to us” (1 John 3:1), that “as a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13). He wanted us to know that the Father abounds “in steadfast love and faithfulness” toward us (Exodus 34:6).

This is why, when Jesus promised us, “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you” (John 16:23), he made sure we understood the Father’s heart toward us:

Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7–11)

It’s an astounding promise of astonishing goodness and faithfulness: “For everyone who asks receives” (Matthew 7:8). Why? Because our Father wants our “joy [to] be full” (John 16:24).

However, Jesus, of all people, also knew that some of the good gifts our loving Father gives in answer to our prayers — some of his best gifts, in fact — arrive in painful packages we don’t expect. When we receive them, we can be tempted to think the Father gave us a serpent when we asked for a fish, not realizing till later the priceless goodness of the gift we received.

Why would the Father do this? As just one in the great cloud of God’s children across the ages, I can bear personal witness that he does it so that our joy may be full. And I’ll offer that witness here, with the help of one of history’s most beloved pastors and hymn writers. Because both he and I know how important it is to trust the Father’s heart when we’re dismayed by what we receive from his hand.

Near Despair an Answered Prayer?

John Newton was the godly eighteenth-century English pastor most famous for penning the hymn “Amazing Grace,” which describes the best gift Newton ever received from the Father: the forgiveness of his sins and eternal life through Christ.

But at times he also received, as I have, gracious gifts from God that amazed him in a different sense. He expressed this amazement in a lesser-known hymn, “I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow,” which begins,

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace,
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek more earnestly his face.

’Twas he who taught me thus to pray;
And he, I trust, has answered prayer;
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair.

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