My kids have a way of asking without asking. It’s the classic manipulation tactic, you know, of suggesting an idea such that the listener thinks they came up with it themselves. Which, of course, makes the idea brilliant, right? Therefore the kiddo gets what she wants without having to beg.
It comes out like this.
“I wish my bike tires had enough air in them. I like to go for bike rides with my family.” So says the sentimental third-grader.
“I like our bike rides, too!” Says the I’m-totally-onto-you mom.
“Yeah, they’re really fun. I just love spending time with you, Mom.”
Okay. I give.
“Let’s go for a bike ride this afternoon. Dad can pump up your tires.” Says the sucker mom.
“What a great idea!”
My kindergartener is not quite so subtle. In her case, asking without asking begins with the inspiring words, “How About.”
“How about if we have ice cream before supper?”
“Oh, well that is an interesting thought. What would happen if we had ice cream before supper tonight?” Says the analytical mother person.
“It would be yummy!”
“Yes, and it would fill up your tummy so that you would have no room left for your healthy broccoli.”
“But ice cream is healthy! It’s milk! How about if we have marshmallows, too?”
Right. How about that.
I giggle, but I have to admit I do the same thing with God. Don’t you?
“Lord! How about if you give my husband a big fat paycheck so I can buy a new minivan?”
“God! How about if you remove all the mean kids from school so my girls never have to face injustice?”
“Father! How about if you protect us from all harm, all suffering, all worry and all unexpected challenges every day of our lives so that we never have to grow and mature through pain? How about that, God?”
“Yes! I see what you’re saying!” Says the all-knowing Sovereign of the Universe. “And then you can fill up your bellies with comfort so you have no room left for healthy lessons learned the hard way.”
Is that really what I want?
Sometimes, yes. I’m ashamed to say.
But I know God has good things in store for me—and for you—even if his ideas of how I’m going to get them are different from mine.
“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11).
This promise was originally made to people suffering in exile. In Jeremiah’s day, God’s people were cast out of Jerusalem to Babylon, where God told them to seek peace and thrive among strangers. They didn’t choose that kind of life for themselves. They wanted to go back home. But God kept them 70 years in a pagan capital, sustained with a promise that he had good reasons and good plans.
Many of us have read Jeremiah 29:11 before or maybe even memorized it as a staple in our arsenal of encouragement. But it’s not an isolated promise. We need to keep reading in order to fully understand God’s point here.
“ ‘Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile’ ” (Jeremiah 29:12–14).
Did you catch that? God says I have plans for you. And what next?
“Then you will call on me. . .”
“Pray to me. . .”
“Seek me with all your heart. . .”
“. . . and I will bring you back.”
At the core of our hopes and dreams is this question: Do we trust God? Do we believe He has our best interests at heart and knows something we don’t know? Do we believe he can see the entire continuum of time and space, in which our lives are a perfectly fashioned piece of his magnificent, flawless puzzle? The Bible says all the days ordained for you and me were written in His book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). God must know what he’s doing.
But when it looks like he doesn’t. When you’re in your own sort of exile. When God feeds you the broccoli. Will you run toward him? Or push him away?
“The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145:9).
We might not get everything we ask for. That’s true. But then we don’t always know the big picture. We have no way of knowing what we’re really asking for.
And somehow, everything He does is for our good.
Even when it doesn’t make sense.
Even when it’s yucky.
Even when what we’re asking for seems good in our own eyes (hello, new minivan).
If we really believe our Heavenly Father is good, then we can take whatever He serves us—be it broccoli or ice cream—and swallow it all in faith. Then soon enough, all of our “how abouts” and “I wishes” will look more like this:
“Yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42b).
“Momma, how about if we order pizza for supper so you don’t have to cook?”
Well now, sometimes the kids have a point.
How about that.