Some people have strange definitions of “emergency.” All the following items are based on actual 911 calls:

“Our hotel room has only two towels for the four of us.”

“My husband won’t change the channel so I can watch my favorite program’s season finale.”

“I need someone to call all the gas stations along FM 555 and see which ones are open.”

“My car’s stuck in the snow and the tow truck can’t get here for an hour. Send a policeman to carry my Christmas packages up to my house.”

“The water pump on our swimming pool is broken. Could a fire truck come over to fill the pool?”

“Could you call and wake me at 4:30? … Well, why not? You people are up all night!”*

Translation to all the above: “Something’s interfering with my convenience, and I consider that a matter of life and death!”

Sounds rather Israelites-in-the-wilderness, doesn’t it? “We want fresh water. We want bread. We want meat. We want all these obstacles removed NOW. … I don’t see why God puts us through all the work of asking. If He really cared, He could keep all these problems from surfacing to begin with!”

The eventual outcome of their constantly harping on that theme–the infamous “graves of craving” incident of Numbers 11–was the supernatural equivalent of being slapped with a fine for wasting an emergency worker’s time, or of hearing an exasperated parent say, “Okay, eat a whole cake if you insist–but don’t come crying to me when your stomach throws it back up!” The people told God they hated His prescribed diet and they wanted meat NOW–and He threw it at them in quantities that left many in fatal agony from food poisoning.

Such drastic consequences aside, there are good reasons not to scream “Emergency!!! Somebody fix this fast!” at every annoyance. The more we do that, the more we feed a sense of entitlement, an angry and negative attitude, and the sort of self-inflicted stress that makes blood pressure go up and drives relationships onto the rocks. Not least our relationship with God.

In short, demanding instant “solutions” stunts our growth.

It’s interesting that the famous admonition “Ask, and it shall be given you” appears in that epitome of the call to humility, the Sermon on the Mount. Obviously, Jesus did not mean to ask in whiny or demanding fashion! Nor was He guaranteeing that asking in the right way would get us what we wanted immediately–or at all. There are Christians who approach prayer in the attitude of Sally in the old Peanuts strip, who wished on a star for a pony, looked around for one to appear immediately, and–seeing that expectation disappointed–screamed in rage, “You stupid star!!” And there are Christians who pray with a halfhearted “couldn’t hurt to try” attitude, see no quick results, and grumble, “I knew it wouldn’t work.” I refer both groups to James 4:2-3: “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures”–assuming that those temporal (and temporarily satisfying) pleasures are all we need.

God is all we need. May we learn to give that fact more than lip service, to pray humbly-yet-confidently as well as persistently, and to trust that He knows and gives what is best, whether that matches our own immediate opinions or not. Then may we learn to thank God for His answers before they come, in faith and anticipation, as well as for the final result when we see it.

A tall order? Less so if we’re willing to give it the energy we now spend fuming and fretting over our obsessions with getting the “right” answers.


*Adapted from What’s the Number for 911? by Leland Gregory. The book also has a sequel, What’s the Number for 911 Again?

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1 Comment

  1. Jerrie Amos

     /  February 10, 2014

    Great article.


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