That Intended Joy: God’s Goodness Wrapped in a Man Who Doesn’t Return My Affection

Lately, my journal has been filled more with admissions that I don’t know how to pray than with prayers themselves when it comes to the boy. So, I ask God to teach me.

I’ve been lamenting that here I am, once again, desiring someone who doesn’t desire me, feeling overly emotionally invested in something so new, and being easily reduced to questioning my worth and value. So, I’ve asked myself: what is it I mistakenly believe about God, about myself and about his children that creates this sense of urgency in me about this guy and that surfaces feelings of jealousy, competition and insecurity?

Meet the culprits:
  • “God cannot provide or satisfy,”
  • “I am not good enough,” and,
  • “a man would give my life greater meaning (making that man key to a meaningful life).”
These punks are out causing trouble again.

But here’s the truth: I am not in competition for God’s provision. If God is for me, works everything for my good, knows how to give good gifts, and His plans cannot be thwarted and never fail, then how does there still exist a reason for me to be jealous or covet what someone else has? A God of infinite love, grace and provision does not run out of gifts for his children. Psalm 145:16 says, “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”

 …If only we’d be satisfied. 

1 Timothy 6:6 reminds that “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” and in Philippians, Paul places Jesus at the center of his struggle to be content (Phil 4:11). I think of the disciples, mid journey across the sea of Galilee—where they were supposed to be and with the Lord himself—unable to sleep because of the turbulence around them. They come at Jesus like he doesn’t care, like he didn’t see this coming, and like he can’t do anything about it. But how their faith was strengthened seeing that even the wind and the waves did His calling! The real prize perhaps then is not the cessation of the storm but the ability to sleep soundly through it. It’s not to get what we want, but to get more of God from whatever he gives us—including from whatever he withholds. It’s faith in the face of an unfinished story. How else does one reconcile “in this world you will have trouble” with “in quietness and rest is your salvation”?

Trust doesn’t come easy. The Israelites provide the perfect example. God had done wonders before them like no one had ever seen before and no sooner had one crisis been averted then they forgot. My favorite Psalm, Psalm 78, sums it up:

Psalm 78: 11 – 29

They forgot what he had done,
the wonders he had shown them.
He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors
in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
He divided the sea and led them through;
he made the water stand up like a wall
He guided them with the cloud by day
and with light from the fire all night.
He split the rocks in the wilderness
and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
he brought streams out of a rocky crag
and made water flow down like rivers.
But they continued to sin against him,
rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High.
They willfully put God to the test
by demanding the food they craved.
The spoke against God;
they said, “Can God really spread a table in the wilderness?
True, he struck the rock,
and water gushed out,
streams flowed abundantly,
but can he also give us bread?
Can he supply meat for his people?”
When the Lord heard them, he was furious;
his fire broke out against Jacob,
and his wrath rose against Israel,
for they did not believe in God
or trust in his deliverance.
Yet he gave a command to the skies above
and opened the doors of the heavens;
he rained down manna for the people to eat
he gave them the grain of heaven.
Human beings ate the bread of angels;
he sent them all the food they could eat.
He let loose the east wind from the heavens
and by his power made the south wind blow.
He rained meat down on them like dust,
birds like sand on the seashore.
He made them come down inside their camps,
all around their tents.
They ate till they were gorged—
he had given them what they craved.

This, this, is my God. This is He of whom I can say, “I am my Beloved’s and He is mine.” Nothing—no laws of nature, schemes of man, dark powers or anything else in all of creationcan keep me from his love and will for me. Yet, I feel like God looks at me while I am in the midst of these times of longing for what I don’t yet have with His hand open before me full of endless and matchless treasure and says, “She will not let me satisfy her. No, she will not trust in my love for her even in this very moment.”

Making this guy a proxy for my general longing to be in a relationship is unwise, unfair to him, and builds our friendship on sand. It’s poor stewardship to place those hopes on his shoulders rather than the Lord’s. 1 Timothy 6:17 says, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”  The passage, though about money, speaks to the inverse relationship between our ability to truly enjoy God’s gifts and our placing our hope in them. I love that it says God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment then hints that misplaced hope frustrates and sabotages that intended joy by lacing it with fear and greed. I consider this guy a gift and want to enjoy him fear and greed free.

Who knows? Maybe in the future there might be something more than friendship between him and me, but if there’s not, it won’t be because I’m not good enough, or because God couldn’t overcome our particular set of circumstances, or because His love for me is weak. I do know His will for me now is to love my brother, to bring my honest desires before Him, and to consider both this trial and this gift joy.

When these things don’t work out like I hope, I often run to “It’s not personal” for solace. But it is. It’s personal. It’s deeply personal. The Giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17) knows my name and the number of hairs on my head. He knit me together and knows my inmost being (Psalm 139:13). All my longings lie open before Him (Psalm 38:9) and before a word is on my tongue, He knows it (Psalm 139:4). All the days of my life were written in His book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). There is nothing more personal than this intimate knowledge of my Beloved and when this all knowing, all powerful God says this is not my best for you, it can’t get more personal than that and that is good news.

I spent some time thinking about what I could give up, some sacrifice, as I bring this to the Lord (not just the issue of the boy, not even primarily that, but also the underlying lies that seem to corrupt all my crushes). For various reasons and over several days I kept landing on “a sacrifice of praise” (Hebrew 13:15) like Habakkuk staring down desolate fields (Habakkuk 3:17), Job barely hanging onto life (Job 13:15) and David traversing the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). God knows and sees that I want a husband and as I wait, I hear the warning to not spend my labor on what does not satisfy (Isaiah 55:2), to not worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:25-34), and to proclaim that the Lord has been good to me, that the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places and my lot is secure (Psalm 16:5,6).
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