Did You Get What You Wanted?

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As a preschooler, I was a Roy Rogers enthusiast. I wore a Roy Rogers cowboy hat, a Roy Rogers holster, a Roy Rogers belt. I even had Roy Rogers saddlebags for my bicycle. (I didn’t have a horse, but I had an active imagination.) I was so caught up with Roy Rogers that I was upset with my parents that our last name did not start with an “R.” Since my first name started with an “R” and if my last name started with an “R,” then the double “R’s” on my Roy Rogers paraphernalia could stand for my name as well. In fact, I had all the Roy Rogers’ stuff I wanted except for one item. To be a full-fledged cowboy, I needed Roy Rogers chaps.

When Christmas came around, I sent my letter off to Santa. It was different than my previous messages. They all contained a litany of gifts that I wanted. But not this year. “Dear Santa,” I wrote, “all I want this Christmas is a pair of Roy Rogers chaps. Love, Ricky.”

When I visited with Santa at the Sears store, he asked, “What do you want for Christmas?” I replied, “As my letter indicated, all I want for Christmas is a pair of Roy Rogers chaps.” He assured me that the chaps were in the bag.

When Christmas came, I was confident that the chaps were under the tree. But when I tore off the paper to open my present and stuck my hand in the box, I knew something was wrong. The gift wasn’t soft like chaps; it was hard and cold. I pulled out the item and, to my chagrin, discovered not Roy Rogers chaps but an electric guitar. I began to cry, “Where are my Roy Rogers chaps?”

There are times when the one thing you want is the one thing you never get. I never got Roy Rogers chaps. And I never learned to play the electric guitar.

The Christian life entails hoping and hurting, trying and failing, wanting but not always receiving. There are no guarantees for the fulfillment of our prayers, our dreams, or our goals. Sometimes God says no.

There are those times when God, having heard our appeals, says, “My grace is sufficient for you.” We don’t get the answer we want. Tell me, is God still a good God when he says no?

The Apostle Paul

The apostle Paul wrestled with that question. He knew what no from God sounded like. He testified, “There was given me a thorn in my flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7). But not the removal of the thorn. This thorn in the flesh defined his life.

This affliction is more than a thorn you might get while picking roses; it is a stake on which a man is tortured. This barb is more than the usual annoyances of life—more than a hangnail on the finger, more than a bad day with the kids, more than an unrelenting boss. A thorn is a tragedy, a broken dream, a sickness, an unshakable fear, a disability that dogs you for life. Theologically, thorn refers to some circumstance for which we didn’t ask, which we pray to have removed, by which we are given the grace to keep going, and behave in such a way that the Father will be glorified.

 

Paul did not get the answer he wanted, but the one God knew was best. Paul wrote, “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Cor. 12:9). Interestingly, these are the only words of the risen Christ found in Paul’s letters. Through them, God gives Paul a wonderful promise: “I’m all you need.” Paul wrote “He said” in the perfect tense, meaning that God said his grace was sufficient and ongoing.

Paul did not get the answer he wanted, but the one God knew was best. Paul wrote, “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Cor. 12:9). Interestingly, these are the only words of the risen Christ found in Paul’s letters. Through them, God gives Paul a wonderful promise: “I’m all you need.” Paul wrote “He said” in the perfect tense, meaning that God said his grace was sufficient and ongoing.

God’s gift to Paul was not the thorn; it was his grace. The courage to face tragedy, disappointments, sickness, and heartache.

My Aunt Evelyn

Granted, not everyone may experience a thorn in the flesh. Some may be so fortunate to live without knowing the pain and struggle that others face every day of their lives.

I wish my Aunt Evelyn had bee so favored. For years she taught first grade until crippling arthritis kept her from the classroom. But while this disease took the mobility in her hands and legs, it did not remove the joy from her heart. All the years I knew my aunt I never heard her complain even though I saw her grimace from the pain. Joy filled her spirit that enabled her to live above the discomfort and frustration. She and Uncle Otis took many trips and spent a lot of money to find a cure or at least relieve her pain, but to no avail. She lived the balance of her life with the thorn of arthritis. She never found a cure or relief.

I’ve often wondered why Aunt Evelyn was afflicted with such pain. She was kind, tender, and gracious. But while the healing grace never came to her, sustaining grace did. In spite of her crippled hands and broken body, her vibrant faith and enthralling love for life had a powerful impact on everyone she met. Like the apostle Paul, Aunt Evelyn discovered that God’s grace is indeed sufficient.

Sometimes God says no to us. Sometimes we don’t get the Roy Rogers’ chaps we ask for or the healing that we desire. But in God’s denial, he can still accomplish a great work in and through our lives. The grace that saves us also keeps us.

We often obsess on the life we want as obtaining certain possessions or higher status. But the life we want is much loftier than that. It hinges on undeniable traits, disciplines, and characteristics that define the soul and heart of a person. I write about this life in 21 Days to the Life You’ve Always Imagined. The book contains twenty-one daily readings to help you focus on what matters most for a life that matters. The daily assignments that follow each chapter will help you implement what is lacking in your life to discover and enjoy the life you’ve always imagined. Click here to claim your copy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Rick Ezell

I am a husband, father, pastor, and writer. This blog is about shaping character, transforming church, and impacting culture. I believe that if one defines their moments then their moments will determine their character and their character will influence their world. I write on personal development, church leadership, and our changing culture. I also write about the resources I am developing and the books I am writing. My goal is to create challenging, relevant, and inspiring content that will help you be a better person, the church be a better parish, and the world a better place. If you are interested in those things, this blog is for you. I have served the church my entire career as a student minister and senior pastor. I studied at Samford University, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (eventually I will get it). I have written eight books. My most recent ones are Chapter 13: The Excellence of Love and Soul Therapy: The Healing Words of Psalm 23. Both are available as eBooks. I have written over 1000 articles for various local, regional, and national publications. I have been married to Cindy for thirty-three years. We have one wonderful daughter. We live in Greenville, SC. In my free time, I enjoy writing, reading, running, tennis, and golf. You can contact me via email or follow me on Twitter or Facebook. This is my personal blog. The opinions I express here do not necessarily represent those of my employer. The information I provide is on an as-is basis. I make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information on this blog and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its use.
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