Be Careful What You Ask For

Do you make a list of things you’d like for Christmas so that family and friends can shop appropriately? It’s that time of year again, and making a list is a good idea. Especially if your family doesn’t appreciate your taste in clothes or decorating.

I remember a few years ago I was given a green sweater with an enormous embroidered Santa covering the front, surrounded by small glittery snowflakes and holly. I know it was a nice sweater. I appreciate the thought. And I’m sure the sweater would look great on a grandmother or someone who likes to wear tinsel earrings and red shoes to match. But that’s not me. And I just couldn’t bring myself to put it on for the obligatory picture to show I was wearing it.

The infamous green sweater is a classic example of someone buying what they would like and not really knowing what I would like. Either that or they got stuck with it at the previous year’s gift exchange and decided to offload it, I mean re-gift it.

It’s hard when we ask for one thing and get something else.

So what are you asking God for these days? Many of us put items like new coats or purses on our Christmas list for family and friends, but when it comes to asking God for things we list the big ticket items. Like a new car, a new job, a new relationship.

But sometimes we realize that what we need to ask God for is not a thing, but change within us.

Like patience. I was talking to my friend last week and she was telling me about how she’s been praying and asking God for patience. She needs a lot of it. She has a business to grow that involves dealing daily with high maintenance clients. In addition, her husband quit his job to start a career in real estate so she’s carrying the financial burden as he gets launched. She was also hosting Thanksgiving for her family and her out-of-town in-laws who were planning on staying way too long for comfort. Stress was high, patience was thin, and so she had been praying.

She trusted God enough to know that He would answer. But His answer was not what she expected. To her (and to me) the perfect answer would have been something like a “patience pill”. Stress goes up, patience goes down, take two of these little pink patience pills with a strong dose of Scripture and prayer and you’ll be full of patience in the morning. The stressful situations will work themselves out quickly and without issue, and the world will be peaceful again in no time.

Sounds good to me. I’d like a few patience pills to go please.

Of course, God doesn’t work like this. In fact, what He did was the exact opposite. Instead of taking away the stressful situations or having everything miraculously work out, God began giving her new situations that were like a burr under the saddle. Irritants. Stresses. Conflicts. But with each one, she turned to God and prayed for strength and patience, and God answered. She was covered in His peace. She stood in His strength. She could feel the patience growing.

It wasn’t anything she was doing. It wasn’t anything she could have done on her own.

It was the power of God working in her and through her. He was growing patience within her. He was teaching her self-control and how to respond without reacting. He was giving her patience through the process of overloading her so that she had to rely on God.

It wasn’t a pill. It wasn’t a quick fix or a 24 hour bandaid. It was so much better. Because the patience God gave her will now be a part of who she is as she continues on her journey.

Be careful what you ask for this Christmas. Because if you’re asking God for something, He may not give you what you think you want. But He will always give you what is best. If you leave the specifics of the gift up to God, He’ll bless you with something truly amazing as you look back and see how it has changed you forever.

“How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:11

May I pray?

Heavenly Father, You are the giver of good gifts. You bless us with gifts we take for granted, like food at every meal, a warm house, and a soft pillow to sleep on. You bless us with gifts we often don’t appreciate, like a job that pays the bills and family or friends that love us even if they drive us crazy. And You bless us with gifts we can’t understand at the time, like turmoil and challenges that test us and change us if we’ll turn our hearts to You. Lord, as we head into this Christmas season, may we focus not on the gifts we hope to receive, but on You, the Giver of all good gifts. And may our Christmas list to You include those areas we struggle with, like patience, gratitude, and generosity. Continue Your work in us, that we may never be the same again. Amen.

Q4U: What are you asking for this Christmas?

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