When God Won't Do What You Want Him To Do

Bruce AlmightyThere is a great scene in Bruce Almighty about 20 minutes in.  We have already met self absorbed Bruce and have watched his life fall apart.  After things go totally wrong Bruce blows up and says, "God is a mean kid sitting on a hill with a magnifying glass and I am the ant.  He could fix my life in 5 minutes if he wanted to but he would rather burn off my feelers and watch me squirm!" 

At question here is God's justice and the question resonates with me sometimes.  I have frequently questioned God in prayer when the solution to my problem appears to be in God's hands but He refuses to solve it for me.  Four years ago while Julie's mom was gravely ill I saw God's responsibility here being ignored.  It appeared to me He could solve my problem in 5 minutes but He wouldn't; and ultimately didn't.

In the years since then I have struggled with this answer to prayer (God always answers prayer, He just doesn't give you what you were asking for sometimes).  I have read Ecclesiastes a couple dozen times and pondered God's inscrutable ways.  We have come to peace with Mom's passing but that experience revisits me from time to time.  Why doesn't God do what I need Him to do?

In the book of  Habakkuk you can find honest doubt and harsh questions for God, much like kind of questions I sometimes ask. We sometimes boldly question God's ways of doing things. In this case, the justice of God comes as a surprise. In chapter 1 verses 1-4 Habakkuk asks how long God will wait to punish those who pervert God's Laws and do what is wrong.  In v. 5-11 God's response to Habakkuk's question comes quickly, 'Oh I hear you. I know just what to do about the apostate nation of  Judah. I will deliver all of you over to the Babylonians!'

This justice of God is just like the answers to prayer that I sometimes get. I have something I want God to resolve and I pray earnestly for Him to do something and he responds all right; just not the way I want him to. God's response isn't what I wanted but it is always what is needed. In the same way you sometimes see scandal strike an individual or church and ultimately become a means by which an individual or church can restore purity.  Nothing brings about a contrite heart quite like humiliation.

How then, Habakkuk asks, can God use an evil nation to judge Israel. 'Surely they are even worse than us!' Habakkuk probably said. Here we find more truth about moral righteousness. God's Righteousness is so high above our best that the righteousness and the wickedness of mankind are all the same, compared to God. God's response assures that all who sin will have to suffer the consequences of their sin.

For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
       it speaks of the end
       and will not prove false.
       Though it linger, wait for it;
       it will certainly come and will not delay.

See, he is puffed up;
       his desires are not upright—
       but the righteous will live by his faith

Hab. 2: 3-4

Paul's use of Hab. 2: 4 in Gal. 3: 11 and Romans 1:17 illustrates a powerful truth. Just like the Jews of Habakkuk's day must accept God's choice of using the Babylonians as a judgment on Judah, the first century Jews must also accept God's use of a suffering servant Messiah; one who comes in weakness as the true Messiah, His Holy one. When Jesus came the Jews wanted deliverance; political deliverance and yet God gives them what they really need not what they wanted. There was a whole lot about Jesus as the Messiah that the Jews had difficulty accepting: ministering to the poor, no recognition of the religious establishment, no political agenda. There was also the acceptance of Gentile believers that they would have had great trouble accepting.

The faith that Paul saw here is the faith of one who is at peace with God doing what He sees as best no matter what the apparent consequences. God's Justice is perfect. To the Just God says, “ They shall live by faith.” God will save them through faith in Jesus.

To the Wicked: God pronounces five woes:

(2:6) Woe to him who piles up stolen goods…

(2:9) Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin!…

(2:12 Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed…

(2:15) Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors…

(2:18) Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it?… 2:19 Woe to him who says to wood, 'Come to life!'…

In the end, the bad guy always loses and the good guy wins!

I continue to grow in this kind of faith: A belief in the righteousness of God and in His wisdom of knowing what needs to be done.


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