When God begins to answer our prayers, we often find his answers disorienting. Circumstances might take unexpected courses, health might deteriorate, painful relational dynamics might develop, financial difficulties might occur, and spiritual and emotional struggles might emerge that seem unconnected and we can feel like we’re digressing from not progressing toward the sanctification we desire. We cry out in painful confusion and exasperation (Psalm 13:1; Job 30:20), when what’s really happening is that God is answering our prayers. We just expected the answer to look and feel different.
This being true, we might be tempted to not even ask God for such things. I mean, who wants unpleasant answers to prayers for joy?
Don’t be deceived into this short-sighted thinking. Remember Jesus’ promise: “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). If the path to full joy is sometimes hard, and Jesus tells us it is (John 16:33; Matthew 7:14), that is no reason not to take it! What do you want? Low, shallow, thin joys? No! Go for full joy! And remember what the writer of Hebrews tells us:
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)With regard to God’s answers to prayer, expect the unexpected. Most of the greatest gifts and deepest joys that God gives us come wrapped in painful packages.