Longing for What’s Second Best

We often overestimate our wisdom. We often overestimate our capacity to rightly assess any given situation. We often overestimate our ability to know what would be best for ourselves and those we love. We are nothing if not self-focused, nothing if not self-reliant, nothing if not self-assured.

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Of course we know that, in theory, we are limited little creatures whose knowledge is small and whose understanding is minimal. But this rarely stops us from acting as if we know far more than we actually do, as if we are far wiser than we actually are. This rarely stops us from praying as if the best thing God could ever do is to grant us our desires, to cede to our will, to do things in the way we demand. “Nevertheless, not as you will, but as I will” is so often our functional petition before the Lord.

But those who live by faith must have faith not only in God’s salvation but also in his providence. They must have faith that God knows best not only when it comes to the state of their souls but also the events of their lives, to entrust to him not just their distant happy future in heaven, but also their difficult present here on earth. They must have faith in God’s desire to hear their prayers, in his ability to answer their prayers, but also in his far greater capacity to know what is best for them and what best serves his great plan and purpose.

It is for this reason that we must pray earnestly and fervently, pouring out our petitions before the Lord, yet all the while encapsulating every prayer in the words, “nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” While we can and should pray for those things we long for, we should always pray that what we long for would be according to God’s will. This is no more than an acknowledgement of the greatness of God’s knowledge and the limitations of our own. It is to admit that it is always better for God to carry out his will than for us to get ours. It is to profess that God’s ways are always better than our ways, even when they contradict our most fervent desires, and that his ways are higher than our ways, even when they lead through the deepest of valleys.

By faith we believe that God will some day right every wrong and bring contentment far greater than every pain. By faith we believe that we will worship God for every one of his actions and praise him for every part of his providence. By faith we believe we will see that when our will and his were in contradiction, we were actually longing for what was merely second best.