Early on a Tuesday morning in April, 2007, I got on my knees and confessed to God that I thought my walk with him was too comfortable. I asked him to show me a way that my husband and I might stretch the limits of our comfort zone for his glory. When I finished praying, I switched on the radio and immediately heard a woman making a plea for homes to host French students who would be visiting America for one week. That would work! After getting the green light from my husband, I made the call and two weeks later, Celine came into our life. Two months later, we hosted Axl for three weeks, and by the start of school, Su Ying had joined our family for an entire year. “Ask and it will be given to you” indeed!
Nothing, though, could have prepared us for what was to be the culminating answer to that prayer. I wrote this about her in a previous article, entitled, Hope Breaks Through Heartache, published on desiringgod.org :
"She came to us when she was nine, and left us just before her eighteenth birthday. We were certain (and still are) that God brought her to us. She was alone in the world. A literal orphan. Her mother died when she was six. Her father was incarcerated. Her extended family couldn’t care for her. I noticed her because of her beauty — impossibly huge brown eyes, a wavy chestnut pixie cut that framed her innocent face, and a confident countenance that defied her inner turmoil, a turbulence birthed through years of trauma and abandonment. It didn’t take long for God to show us that she belonged in our family."
Jacqueline came into our home in the summer of 2008, and we adopted her one year later. She left our home in hostility in the summer of 2016, and hasn’t returned.
Our experience with Jackie couldn’t have been further from our hopes, leaving us devastated and confused. God, we wondered, did we not ask for success with our daughter? Did we not seek your face at every turn when we were raising her? Did we not desperately pound on the door of your grace with every challenge and crisis we faced? The daughter you blessed us with rejected us at every turn, and ultimately left our home without looking back. How, Lord, we objected, is this utter failure a fulfillment of your promise in Matthew 7?
When my husband and I prayed over and for our daughter, we thought the it in our prayer-Ask and it will be given…Seek and you will find (it)…knock and it will be opened- was to save her from the distress and turbulance of her formative years. We were very specific with our it. Lord, please give us the wisdom to help Jackie bridle her temper. Father, please give Jackie good success in school. Abba, please be with us in today’s counseling session, because it’s going to be a rough one.
All our prayers, along with hundreds more like them, were good, so we were certain they would be affirmed. And sometimes they were. Ultimately, though, our requests were either denied or, as we perceived it, met with silence. Were we mistaken in our certainty that Jackie was an answer to my prayer all those years ago? Certainly, God is not a liar!
J.I. Packer, in his marvelous book, Knowing God, addresses our tendency to “feel sure that God has enabled us to understand all his ways with us…and to be able to see at once the reason for anything that may happen to us in the future.” He writes,
"And then something very painful and quite inexplicable comes along, and our cheerful illusion of being in God’s secret councils is shattered. Our pride is wounded; we feel that God has slighted us; and unless at this point we repent and humble ourselves very thoroughly for our former presumption, our whole subsequent spiritual life may be blighted."
In the two years since Jackie left, God has graciously shown us that the it in our prayerful anticipation of Matthew 7:7-8, the apprehension of our success with Jackie, was not ultimate. The ultimate it was God himself. In his kindness and love for us, he gave himself freely and abundantly. He has enabled us to see that our consummate it, our highest request, the objective of our seeking, the only door to eternal life, is delight in the Father, through his son, Jesus Christ, and in the fellowship we enjoy with his Holy Spirit-in and despite our circumstances!
Elsewhere in Knowing God, Packer writes,
"(God) plans that a great host of humankind should come to love and honor him. His ultimate objective is to bring them to a state in which they please him entirely and praise him adequately, a state in which he is all in all to them, and he and they rejoice continually in the knowledge of each other’s love-people rejoicing in the saving love of God, set upon them from all eternity, and God rejoicing in the responsive love of people, drawn out of them by grace through the gospel."
Praying for anything less than the desire for and enjoyment of God and his will reduces our heavenly Father to nothing more than a wishing genie. Of course, it is not wrong, but good and right to ask God for provision, but his provision is subordinate to the delight and enjoyment of God himself. Understanding that our ultimate good is the mere sufficiency of the triune God keeps us from deep disappointment and doubt when his provision is not provided in the way we expect.
“The Lord delights when you find him to be your delight” (John Piper). This is our it: in all circumstances, to find Christ supremely enjoyable, to his glory and our eternal delight!