I was sitting with my friend at the local, college coffee shop as she anxiously gripped her steaming coffee mug. She struggled to look me in the eyes. Nervously, she fiddled with her hair and glanced side to side around the room, almost as if to make sure that he wasn't there.
My friend had just confided in me that she started talking to a guy and that she was interested in him. She knew he was no good, but hey, he was cute and fun, and she was young, single, and lonely. She knew she probably shouldn't be with him. After all, he wasn't a Christian, and they were going further physically than she had previously wanted to go.
I sat there, watching the Spirit work within her, convicting her. I saw her wrestling with what she knew was right and what her heart really wanted. As I reached out my hand, I squeezed hers and asked, "What are you afraid is going to happen if you dump him?" With tears in her eyes, she whispered, "I'm afraid I'll never find someone."
Oh, the human dilemma! This isn't a new or unique worry but one that is common to all people throughout all time. Is God really going to take care of me? Is He really good? Will He really give me good gifts? It's the lie that changed the world in the garden of Eden when Eve reached out her hand and pulled the forbidden fruit off the tree. Surely God must be withholding something good from me. I'll go get it myself.
As my friend shared her burden with me, it reminded me of a story that my mentor once shared with me. It's the story of a little girl named Katie who had a beautiful, plastic pearl necklace. It was a necklace from her daddy, and it looked so real that she felt like a princess in it. She'd eat, bathe, and play in that necklace, not taking it off even to sleep.
One night, as Katie was going to bed, her dad asked her, "Sweetie, can I have your necklace?" She looked at him, shocked, and said, "No, daddy. You know how much I love this necklace. It's my favorite. You cannot have it back." The dad simply responded with a kiss and said goodnight.
The next night he asked again, "Sweetheart, can I have your necklace?" She looked at him, hurt, and said, "No daddy. You know that I love you, but you cannot have this necklace." Again, he kissed her on the cheek, and said goodnight.
After several nights of this, the little girl had a change of heart. As the daddy came in to say goodnight, he asked the long-familiar question, "Baby, can I have your necklace?" This time, with trembling hands and tears in her eyes she carefully took off her necklace, gently placing it in his hands. He smiled a warm smile and quickly swept her up into a huge bear hug. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a real pearl necklace that he was saving, made especially for her. The pretend necklace Katie thought was so precious was hollow and inadequate compared to the good gift her father desired to give her.
Our God is a good Father who gives good gifts. Whenever he takes something away or says no, it's because he has something better in mind for us. It may not look like we want it to, and it may not be on our timeline. This is the essence of an all-too-familiar verse, Romans 8:28, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (ESV). God has a better plan than we do for ourselves, and He can see things that we cannot.
In Psalm 81, God expresses this same desire for his children to trust Him. He says:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. 'But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel did not obey me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own plans. If only my people would listen to me and Israel would follow my ways, I would quickly subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes.'... But he would feed Israel with the best wheat. 'I would satisfy you with honey from the rock.'Psalm 81:10-16
Do you hear the anguish within those words? Oh, that My children would trust Me! I have something so much better in mind for them. I would satisfy them and fill them. Yet, they trust more in what they can see and touch than in Me.
The path of obedience brings life, healing, and freedom. Just as the little girl in the story trusted her daddy even when she didn't understand, so we can trust our perfect Father. How many of our prayers are unanswered because God wants to give us fish when we've asked for a serpent (Luke 11:11). He is a gracious, all-knowing, and generous Father who gives his children the best gifts. He can be trusted.