A couple of years ago, as I was driving past a local church, I noticed their marquee sign which read, “Pray with us – God, please stop the rain.” I couldn’t help but find this a little humorous because only a few weeks earlier that same sign had read “Pray with us – God, please send the rain.”
If you live in my neck of the woods you may remember the season I’m referring to. We were in the middle of one of the worst droughts many of us had ever experienced. All across Texas lakes had dried up, farmers were loosing their crops, ranchers couldn’t feed their livestock, and food prices were spiking. During those years there were innumerable prayer meetings, many of which I was a part of, where God-fearing men and women cried out to God seeking relief. As the months and then years of the drought dragged on, we were all left wondering when the rains would come. And then they came. Oh my, how they came!
An old saying is that a drought always ends in a flood. I’m not sure of the science behind that, but it certainly proved true in this case. In the blink of an eye, Texas went from bone dry to soaking wet. I had never seen anything like it before. Now I don’t want to make light of what was an extremely difficult and even tragic time for many, but when I saw how quickly that church sign had shifted from one extreme to the other, I couldn’t help but wonder if God was up in Heaven asking, “Exactly how much rain would you prefer I send?”
I’m being sarcastic for I know that God didn’t send a flood just because we weren’t specific enough in our prayers. What I’m trying to highlight is how easy it is for Christians to fall into what I call the “Goldilocks trap.” This is what happens when our relationship with God is focused on what we want from Him to make our lives seem “juuuuust right!” When there’s no rain we pray, “God, give us rain,” but when the floods come we cry, “God, why did you let so much rain fall?”
Let me show you how this fallacy of our faith can be applied elsewhere. How many have asked, “God, could you please help me find a job?” But when the stress of the nine-to-five gets too tough the same person will plead, “God, please help me win the lottery so I stay home all day!” Or how about, “God, I desperately desire to have a family. Will you please give me children?” only to later shout, “God, these kids are driving me crazy!” I’m sure you could give plenty of other examples.
Just like Goldilocks, we want our lives to be lived in the sweet spot, where nothing’s too hot or too cold, too big or too small, too hard or too soft. In our endless pursuit of perfection, we often focus our efforts, energy, and even our prayers on those missing pieces that we hope will make us happy. But is that really where God wants us to be?
When’s the last time you prayed to God asking Him to make you uncomfortable or just to thank Him for the challenges you are facing? You may be asking what would be the purpose of doing such a thing, but think about it for just a moment. Isn’t it precisely when life is uncomfortable that our faith is most effectively deepened? Let’s consider the following Scripture.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1–2, ESV)
We love the picture of being fruitful but we tend to forget that fruitfulness comes from being pruned, which is neither easy nor enjoyable. Going through trials or having one or more elements of your life out of whack may not be fun, but it is necessary. Consider this: Do not both the drought and the flood serve a purpose? We might not like either one but both teach extremely important lessons.
Let me leave you with this:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, ESV)
The next time you’re tempted to ask God to fix, change, or provide something that you think will make your life “juuuuust right,” think of these verses and try the following:
- Thank God for what you are facing today, for you know that with His help, your faith will grow stronger.
- Tell God you trust Him even though you don’t understand why these things are happening.
- Ask God to make you teachable so you can see past the pain to the increased fruitfulness waiting ahead.
- Worship God for being God, the one who holds all things, including you, in the palm of His hand.