Getting More than You Asked For

I have never met Sue, but her letter made me wish I had. She had reason to be bitter but wasn’t.

Sue wanted children—four of them. Instead, in her first six years of marriage, she had four miscarriages. The fifth pregnancy was problem-free. Sue was going to have this baby!

And she did. Baby Robby was born. With Down syndrome.

The doctor was frank: Robby would never be able to feed himself, tie his shoes, or go to school. Sue sat by Robby’s crib and sobbed for hours.

Her husband went for takeout and never returned—heartbreak times two: disabled baby and deserter husband.

Lots of rough days came. But so did good ones. Robby had cognitive and physical limitations, but contrary to the doctor’s prognosis, he fed himself, tied his shoes, and went to school. And he had a beautifully sweet disposition.

“It would have been nice,” Sue wrote, “having normal children and a husband by my side as they grew up and I grew old. I didn’t get the life I’d hoped for, but I can tell you without reservation that if I could trade the life I have for the one I thought I wanted, I’d pass. I wouldn’t trade a single day I’ve had with Robby for a lifetime of my youthful dreams. God knew what Robby needed—me. And he knew what I needed—Robby. He has given me more than I could have ever imagined.”

Like Sue, you may have traveled seemingly endless stretches of rough road.  But though it seems the agony will last forever, it won’t. One of these days, the road will turn, and the scenery will change.

The apostle Paul wrote: “[God] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

Warning: the word in that sentence that may give you the most trouble is “more.” God’s “more” may be a welcomed add-on to your request. Or maybe not. His “more” may be something different than what you asked for—perhaps so different that you can only see it as rejection.

Paul was writing out of personal experience. God’s answers to his prayers included more than he had asked for—a “more” that probably puzzled and disappointed him. Some of his plans and prayers seemed to dead-end in defeat.

For instance, Paul planned to preach in Asia, but the Holy Spirit vetoed it (Acts 16:6). So, he altered his plan—he would turn north to Asia Minor. But that got a thumbs down too (Acts 16:7). He had run out of land—there was nowhere else to go. Or was there?

Standing at the edge of the Aegean Sea, two hundred miles of water separated him from the opposite shore. Even so, the call became clear to him: go to Europe. That wasn’t remotely what he had planned on or prayed for. But it worked out well—he planted a string of churches there that you’ve heard of: Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth. It worked out well for us too, since the gospel came from Europe to America.

There was another trip on Paul’s prayer list: he wanted to go to Rome. The answer to that prayer was delayed for years. While he waited, Paul wrote to his sisters and brothers in Rome. If he had forked over his credit card and booked passage the first time he talked to his travel agent, that letter—the book of Romans—would never have been written.

There’s still “more” to the story. When God finally answered Paul’s prayer by getting him a ticket on a boat to Rome, it wasn’t in a First Class cabin; it was in police custody. When he got to Rome, he didn’t go to church, he went to jail: more of God’s “more,” for Paul spent his two-year sentence writing letters. Copies of those letters—Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon—are likely within reach of where you are sitting.

If there happens to be a place in heaven where God displays your prayers alongside his answers, I bet you’ll run your eye down the list, occasionally pause, and say, “So that’s how he answered that prayer that I didn’t think had been heard. It’s immeasurably more than I asked for or imagined!”

Don’t get bent out of shape when you think God isn’t answering your prayer—keep an eye out for his “more.”

Will God give you what you ask for? Maybe more.


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