Be careful what you wail for

God hears our every cry out, our every complaint, our every lament, and our every wail. We ought to be in intimate relation with Him enough to be as completely vulnerable as our flesh will allow, enough to feel right in reaching out to Him with our every desire. In fact, He expects us to do so. To seek His mercy through our deepest longings (Matthew 7:7, 21:22; Mark 11:24; John 14:13-14 are but a few verses with this focus) and do so with confident expectation that He will answer is a biblically solid action on our part.

Here comes the “however” though for this post; what we cry out to Him for, ask for, long for, needs to be carefully examined before and throughout our periods of wailing. What is it that we’re desiring? Is it in line with His revealed will? Is it a temporal or eternal need? Are there any requests we could be generating that may be more desirable to Him than those immediate needs we seek to be met? To zero in on my point, are we complaining in our discontent with how circumstances may be and, in doing so, setting ourselves up for grave disappointment and despair over a perceived lack of answers to our askings?

The accounts of the Israelites are loaded with lessons for us to learn from today. They constantly complained about their hardships, whether it be lack of water or of food; but in Numbers 11, we read that they’ve taken their wailing to another level. They were sick of eating the manna provided daily by God and “began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!'” (11:4-6). It’s easy to find how God felt about this type of wailing; he was angered by it (11:1, 10) and ends up answering their requests by giving them exactly what they asked for. “Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month – until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it – because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him” (11:18-20). Long story short, God sent a wind out and drove quail in from the sea, covering the grounds with meat for the Israelites to feast upon, “but while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague” (11:31-33). 

God always hears and He always answers, but we are to be diligent in discerning our desires before Him. This passage struck home for me, personally, as I’ve persisted through a process involving the deepest desire I’ve ever had: complete healing for my son who suffered a paralyzing stroke nearly two years ago. It took months for me to even decide whether this healing was aligned with God’s will, whether it’s something I should even be asking for, simply because I fear being discontent with what God has already given in this instance. There’s been miraculous movements in his recovery over time, but there’s still more healing that could be done to bring his body back to the full function it had before the stroke. Scriptures that speak of healing comforted me as I was encouraged to continue to pray for something that God can accomplish, in an instant; however, in reading this account in Numbers, I was given pause.

Surely, to wail and cry out to God for a complete physical recovery for my son is a legitimate request. This wasn’t a request for a bigger house, a nicer car, a toner body, or a better job; I’d sorted through my motivations and was settled in asking for such. But now, I’ve had to revisit the request with an even deeper searching and be intent on recalling the contentment I’m commanded to have in the daily bread He’s given.

To want more of anything that He has provided can be dangerous territory, as the Israelites experienced. They weren’t satisfied with the manna He’d given them each day, they’d grown bored of the same meal, and wanted something different to please their palate. All this without recognizing the provisions God had been giving them, complaining about their plight, wailing with hearts lacking any appreciation or awe in what God had already done for them. This wasn’t a new stance for them though, they’d been consistent in their discontent and God had been consistent in His anger at it. They wanted the luxuries in their life that weren’t ordained for that time. Craving something more, or something different, isn’t inherently sinful in itself; however, getting in the habit of unpacking our desires, categorizing them in line with what God deems as priority, finding the sweet spot between contentment in His provisions and pursuit of godly requests, can all be steps to strengthening our trust in the God we are to revere. It may not be that what we desire we don’t desire enough in our fervent prayers, but more so may be that we aren’t allowing ourselves the freedom and grace to experience genuine contentment in whatever it is He answers us with.

I’ll never stop praying with requests that fall in line with scriptural principles, but will continue to fight to be cognizant of three overall realities: the meaning of the sovereignty and providence of God, the prime importance of spiritual growth by seeking to gain wisdom and knowledge according to Him, and the raw remembrance that trusting His will above all, regardless of how He answers, is the sustaining secret to quell all simmmering discontent before it becomes the wailing that arouses anger in Him. As much as I desire complete healing for my son, I wail more for those three things to consume as my daily bread because, with them, He prepares me for His will that is to be done.

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