When God does not give you what you want

Have you ever wanted something good? Maybe it was a desire for future ministry or a longing to have children. Maybe you wanted a good job which would help you both support your family and fulfill you at the same time. Maybe you wanted your family member not to die of cancer, or your financial situation to change.

But God said: “No”

Or “not today”

Or “not you.”

How are we to respond when God does not give us the good things we want? Sometimes it is easy envision God as a cruel antagonist, giving noble desires and not allowing their satisfaction. We ask Him why. Sometimes we can even question His goodness and His love for us.

I am thankful the Bible records many such situations of people just like us getting denied incredible desires: Job with his loss, Paul with his thorn in the flesh, Joseph with his whole “sold into slavery” escapade. I think particularly of King David in 2 Samuel 7. 

David was a man after God’s own heart. He wrote hundreds of Psalms, slayed Goliath, and was perhaps the greatest King of Israel. The future Messiah would be called the Son of David, being born through the Kingly line. But David had one great desire, one I think surmounted all of his others: to build a temple for His God.

Could there be anything higher than being the one to build a dwelling place for Creator God? What a worthy desire and a fervent request! God after all had been touted about in a dusty tent for years and years, and David felt the conviction that his own dwelling place was far more kingly than that of His Lord’s. Surely that was not right! David felt an honest burden for a most noble task.

To add fuel to the fire, Nathan (the prophet of God) answers David’s request in 2 Samuel 7:3, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.” I am not sure if this was a blunder on Nathan’s part or heaven being cruel—but there is no doubt David was elated that God would grant him his deepest desire. David’s hopes were up. His spirit soared. "I get to do this for my God!"

At this point many of us--if not all--can empathize with David. Maybe you once had an incredibly good desire, and were even “led on” to believe that this desire would be fulfilled. All the signs blinked declaring “God will grant you what you want.” Go for it.

“Scratch that,” Nathan said. It so turned out that David, great man as he was, was unqualified to build a house for God. He had blood on his hands, and God had determined David's son Solomon would be the one to build the temple. God then makes some incredibly powerful promises to David in 2 Samuel 7, of David's future kingdom being established. 

But the fact of the matter remains: God still said “No” to David. What can we learn from David's reaction?

1. David's initial reaction is humility. Before a holy God, David is awestruck. “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” David quickly reminds himself that he has no business pushing his agenda on the Most High God—and he is floored that God would consider building a future house for him.

2. David bows in worship. “How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.” David remembers what God had done in the past for Israel and himself--and he funnels it into lofty praise.

3. David clings to the promises of God. “Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.” David trusts in God’s promises to him—and completely forgets his personal ambition of temple construction. He aligns himself to God's will which in hindsight is much greater.

When dreams are shattered and intense pain comes we need to train ourselves to respond like David. Instead of revolting in bitterness and doubt—may we prepare ourselves now to bow in simple worship, desperately clinging to the amazing promises we have been given as followers of Christ Jesus.  


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