It happens every year.
You know the kind.
It’s a terror beyond all terrors, horror unspeakable, the kind of thing that makes you wonder if there’s any hope for humanity at all…
The person who gives you an apple (and I’m not talkin’ caramel here, either) instead of candy on Halloween night. You know–because it’s “better for you” and “healthy teeth are important” and all that.
As a kid, didn’t that just grate on every single nerve you had? “What is wrong with these people?” kids everywhere ask, shaking their heads. “Don’t they understand us at all? Don’t they know kids want candy, especially on Halloween? What kind of torture is this?”
I wish I could say that as an adult I grew out of that phase. Because yes, while it is extremely annoying to go to a stranger’s door with hand held out expecting one thing and receiving another, the reality is, you’re still receiving something. They didn’t have to give you anything at all.
Unfortunately though, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve done the exact same thing in my relationship with God.
The mature part of me says, “I need to be thankful to receive. God is good, and I will absolutely accept whatever He wants to give me as what I need and not necessarily what I want.”
Then there’s the real me that gets the apple and throws a fit.
“Lord,” I pout, “You said ask, and you shall receive! So what’s up with this? Don’t you get me at all? Don’t you care?”
But it’s not just the silly, small things. Sometimes it’s about the really big things, too.
It’s about that time we prayed for healing, and healing didn’t come. That time we prayed for money to come in, and hospital bills rolled in instead. The time we asked for a promotion and found ourselves fired in the very middle of our prayer.
There are definitely times when we’re stomping our feet without cause. But then there are those times where the hurt and confusion runs deeper–where lines get blurred and all we can cry is, “God, why?”
Jesus says this in Matthew 7:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11.)
Still doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? If God wants to give us good gifts, then how on earth does prolonging our suffering accomplish that? How does an apple compare to candy?
What to do when the disappointment hurts?
All of us know the first option. We can stomp our feet, demand a re-do, or even turn away from God completely.
That’s definitely one way. But as God has been showing me lately, there is another alternative.
We can trust Him and surrender to His love and plan for our lives.
If you’re anything like me, I bet those two words made every single muscle in your body clench. Surrender and trust are not words that come easily to the human vocabulary. Haven’t since the very day Eve decided that she could be like God, discerning between good and evil, and brought her own kind of apple to her lips.
We fight God. In fact, unless we are reconciled to Him through His son Jesus, we are even called His enemy. And I get it–to surrender sounds like a very pious, saintly thing to do: “I surrendered my life to God, and now I’m a new person.” Or how about, “Well, you just need to trust God, honey. He’ll get you through this.”
And all the while, the same people uttering those phrases are the same people who are walking straight past the pain. The problem, they imply, is you. Trust God at all times. Be patient. Hide your emotions, because they’re kind of unflattering, and we’d really rather not see them. You should probably deal with that.
Because of regular, ol’ sinful people (evil, I believe is the term Jesus used), I think we begin to look at God the same way. The way they react to us begins to color the way we see God, and we assume He’ll react in an identical manner. “Enough with all of this. Go take your temper tantrum somewhere else,” we imagine God as saying.
But here’s the truth, dear heart: Jesus will not ever walk past your pain.
When you come with your requests in prayer you come not only to the throne of God, but to the cross of Christ as well. Understand that though He is King and asks for you to surrender to Him as Lord over your life, He is also the very same Lord who surrendered to your sins and died to save your life.
You can trust Him.
You can trust Him even with your pain.
Because here’s the thing: while the subject of surrender definitely involves the laying down of our pride, it has a lot to do with the laying down of our pain, as well.
Wounds we won’t allow Him to touch because we believe He’s the one who put them there in the first place, and how dare He ask us to trust Him that somehow those are meant for our good?
If we peeled back all the layers, if we looked at the root cause, we’d probably all admit that the fear to surrender lies in an even greater fear: that He doesn’t actually love us like He says He does.
It’s okay to admit. You won’t find any condemnation from me. Because every Christian faces this at one point or another, and when we do, we have two very clear choices in front of us: “Either Christ loves me, is completely holy and good, incapable of doing me harm, and I will trust Him to make decisions for me knowing that He has the right to make those choices, or I turn my back on everything He did on the cross to prove His love and right to rule my life, call it all a lie, and live life the way I want to.”
The pain, the anger, the questions–they have to go somewhere. And in my experience, the best place is at the foot of the cross.
Because it’s there The Mercy King waits to meet us.
It’s a place you’ll go to often as a Christian. Because surrender is a continual thing. It’s something you’ll have to do over and over again, and that’s okay. It can be a long process. It might take a lot of yelling and crying and even rebelling to get there.
But it doesn’t always have to.
Ask, Jesus said, and you’ll receive. No, I never said you’d receive exactly what you asked for, exactly the way you specified, but I did promise I’d work it all towards your good. I did promise to love unfailingly, to never leave you nor forsake you.
Seek, child of God. Ask your questions, bring your complaints, try to make sense of it all–and I promise you’ll find Me.
I promise you’ll find not just empty answers, but The Answer. The way, the truth, the life. I’ll hold you as you sob, I’ll take your doubts and show you my hands pierced for your sins, and yes, I’ll open my arms to you once more.
God has a good gift in mind for you and only you, His child. It may not be what you expected or asked for. It could be a new job that doesn’t look very pleasant at the outset. It could mean being set free of your past through forgiving someone else. It might even look like a dumb ‘ol apple that’s supposedly “good for you” and all that.
But no matter what, nothing will ever change His promise: Dearest child, I have a gift for you, and it’s gonna be a good one.
You just might have to let go of the junk before you’ll be ready to receive it.