My first job was working as a busboy in a restaurant. Busboys were allowed one free meal from the kitchen during a shift. When it was time for my break, I would write down what I wanted on an order ticket and give it to the cooks. There were only a few things on the menu we were allowed to choose from. I learned early though that if I purchased a pack of cigarettes from the vending machine in the lobby and “included” it while ordering, the cooks would make me anything I wanted. Every night as a busboy I was eating steak, lobster, and filet mignon. It was wonderful and only cost me a pack of cigarettes per meal.
Sometimes, we treat God like a vending machine. The money we put in is receiving Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The correct button is prayer. After we have pushed the button, we expect what we asked for to drop into the dispenser, just the way we ordered it.
Is there anything that obligates God to give us exactly what we want for our lives? Definitely not! Yet, so often we live the Christian life under the illusion God is like our vending machine. We think God should dispense what we want when we want it. This is why we struggle when God does not cause life to go the way we desire.
Imagine again what it was like for Jesus to fulfill God’s will for his life. Was it something he enjoyed? Was it something that he looked forward to? Definitely not! Who would want to die such an awful death?
In fact, in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before his arrest, Jesus prayed and asked God the Father to spare him from the crucifixion by changing his will (Matthew 26:39). Although we don’t know exactly what God said to his Son at that moment, we do know that ultimately Jesus still died on the cross, and therefore, God’s will was unchanged. God said no to Jesus!
Imagine trying to tell your own son that you could not change his fate; that he was condemned to die. What kind of father does that to his son? A father who has a loving will for his son. Remember after the crucifixion Jesus was resurrected and given the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9). In the same way God has a loving will for you also. Will you accept God’s will for you, even when it is not the will you would choose for yourself?
If Jesus fulfilled God the Father’s will for his life even though it involved suffering and death, why would we expect something different from God? Why would we expect God’s only possible plan for us would be a life of peace and prosperity? Why would we expect God to be held hostage to giving us what we want or desire in this life because that is what we think he should do?
God sees the whole picture. We see a tiny portion of it and even that isn’t totally clear (1st Corinthians 13:12). When life doesn’t go as we planned, we have to trust that God is a good father, that he has a plan for us that will work for our good. It isn’t easy, but it’s what we must do when we submit to God’s will.