When God Doesn’t Give You What You Ask For

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Sometimes I wonder why God remains silent.

Why He doesn’t answer us when we expect Him to. Why He doesn’t give me what I ask for.

There are times when I feel like God remains seemingly inactive in my life. In these moments when I find my circumstances overwhelming and less than favorable, I know that God is great enough to do something. So I expect that He will step in and help me. I wait for Him to do a miracle. But sometimes He just doesn’t. Sometimes He doesn’t answer. For too long I have subconsciously viewed God as the receiver of my prayers and the magician of my wishes. Thinking that God would answer my prayers according to my faith, or according to my worth from my own accomplishments.

When my prayers go unanswered or seemingly unnoticed, at times I feel like I’ve messed up too much for God to hear me. I feel like He’s ashamed of me to answer me. Or that He just doesn’t care enough to bother. Other times I think that God is trying to teach me a lesson. That His silence towards me is His way of telling me that I haven’t done enough or need to change. All of these thoughts are completely wrong and really unbiblical. For Psalm 9:12 declares that God never ignores us. Luke 12:6 also reminds us that if God doesn’t even forget the sparrows in the sky, he will surely not forget us who are worth far more than sparrows.

Still, I can remind myself of all these truths, but in real time I wrestle with doubt and frustration when I feel like God doesn’t hear me. For instance I’ve been confused about God’s apparent absence in my life regarding my job outlook and finances. I’ve been praying and searching and doing everything I know to do, but I feel like God doesn’t see me or hear me. I feel ignored. As if God doesn’t want to help me this time around. In other areas of need He may be quicker to answer, but in certain situations I feel like God is so far away.

And it’s easy for me to feel like I’ve done something wrong or that I don’t deserve His favor.

But maybe, His absence in my life isn’t a result of what I’ve done or not done… but a result of what He wants to do in His own timing.

Right now, God is teaching me how to rely on Him even when I feel disappointed that He ignores my need.

Because really, it’s me who has the distorted perception of my “need” and His “avoidance” of it. To God, my primary need is probably not financial or occupational, but spiritual. God wants to do a work in my heart before He can entrust to me what could potentially lead me to rely on myself. Maybe I’m not ready to receive what I ask for. So God isn’t giving it. While in the midst of my frustrations about God not answering me, I’m realizing that it’s okay to be honest with God. It’s not like He’s unaware anyways.  He knows it all. I think we need to learn how to be open and honest with God about what we’re feeling, thinking and struggling with because there is power in that moment of vulnerability. It leads us to a real conversation with God where we recognize our own inadequacy and our desperate need of Jesus. We need that authenticity before God. It helps me just to know that I don’t have to walk on eggshells with God. I can be who I am. Through that, God can speak to us by His Spirit and His Word, and help us to grow from where we’re at.

I’m learning that sometimes, we have to accept that God denies us the answers we want because He wants us to come to a fork in the road: God wants to know… when I am without all I think I need, will I grow bitter and trust in myself, or be content and trust in Him? The answer has a lot to say about where we’re at spiritually. We must trust in God no matter our lack. We must choose to be content in Him only. Even when we don’t feel blessed by Him. Even when we don’t feel heard or seen by Him. Even when we don’t feel helped by Him. I have to choose to trust in Jesus despite feeling unheard and ignored. I have to trust that God does indeed hear me. And that Jesus is truly enough for me, even if I never get what I ask for. Even if I continue to struggle.

Ultimately, God cares more about our hearts than He does about our stability. He lets us go through seasons of drought so that we will learn to be sufficient with the One who is Lord over the drought in the first place. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care about providing for us…none of His children will ever be left begging for bread as it says in Psalm 37:25. But it does mean that God might strip us of certain provisions for a season because they too easily callous our hearts. I know that if God wants to work on my heart because He cares about who I am becoming, then He also cares enough to provide for me when I really need it. I’m learning to be thankful for whatever He chooses to do and not do in my life.

For anyone reading this, I’m sure you can think of a need that is relevant in your life right now. A need that you feel is both burdensome and distant in terms of God answering it.

Know that God has not forgotten you. He is on the way to do a miracle in your life, probably in a very different way than you ever expected.

We can learn a lot about this from the story of Lazarus in John chapter 11.

In this story, Martha and Mary were disappointed with Jesus’ lack of a response to their need. Lazarus was sick and about to die, so Martha and Mary sent word to Jesus hoping He would come quickly to save his life. Jesus got the message. He knew what Martha and Mary wanted. But He didn’t reply. He stayed where he was at with His disciples and did not travel to Bethany for another couple days. Martha and Mary were furious with Jesus. They didn’t understand why Jesus would ignore them and be so careless with the death of their brother and His friend.

But Jesus had something planned that they didn’t know about.

Jesus was going to do one of the greatest miracles ever recorded in the gospels: raise a dead man back to life. In John 11, verses 5-6 include a subtle detail that reveals so much about Jesus’ intentions. It says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that Lazarus was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was” (emphasis mine). That seems strange. That Jesus would stay 2 days longer where He was, all because He loved them. If He really loved them, wouldn’t He go immediately and heal Lazarus? But this is precisely the point.

Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus so much that He didn’t answer their request.

Instead, He chose to do what would bring God the most glory and show Martha, Mary and Lazarus the fullness of His power. Jesus waited until Lazarus died. Then He went to them. And raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus did what no one ever thought was possible! Because of this, Martha and Mary got to witness one of the greatest miracles they had ever seen. Their frustration was turned into awe and worship through this manifestation of God’s power.

Jesus has a way with doing a mighty work even when we think He’s remaining silent.

Because I know the Jesus of the Bible, I know that Jesus has something much better ahead than what I’m asking for. He will do a work that brings glory to God and no one else. In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul writes, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” Paul goes on in verse 10 to talk about how we carry the death of Jesus in our bodies so that the life of Jesus might also be manifested in our bodies. The death of Jesus represents the sin, frustration, and doubt that can so easily blind us to God’s love. It’s the same condition that causes me to doubt if God really sees or hears me when I pray. But thanks be to God that this same condition acts as a catalyst for the very life of Jesus to be activated, if we are in Christ. So when I doubt that God sees or hears me, I am reminded that there is life despite it, defeating the lies that the enemy throws at me.

Jesus came to give us life and life in abundance (John 10:10). No matter what prayers we think aren’t heard, we can cling to this truth. Jesus is for us, not against us. He always hears us. But even if He never answers me, I’m going to trust in Him anyway. Because He is the One in whom my hope is found. I am never in lack because I have life in Christ. And so do you if you have chosen to follow Jesus.

God does hear you when you pray. Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Keep praying. Keep trusting. Keep persevering. And never forget that Jesus intercedes for you to the Father (John 17; Isaiah 53:12). There is absolutely nothing that is missed by Him when you pray. He hears it all. And for the things that we don’t even know to pray for, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in the things we cannot express (Romans 8:26). The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are involved in your prayers. God does hear you. Trust that He will answer you in a way that both helps you to mature spiritually and brings Him the most glory. Even when that means not getting what we we ask for.

“Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that You sent me.” – John 11:41-42 –

Questions for Today:

  • Am I failing to believe that God hears me when I pray?
  • What can I do to trust that God hears me even though I don’t feel like He does?
  • How do I respond when God doesn’t give me what I ask for?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

“No Other Name” by Planetshakers

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