“I wish it wasn’t raining.” “I wish I had a better job.” “I wish I didn’t sin in that way.” “I wish God would just listen to me on this one.”
The “I wish” statements that flow out of our mouths seem so innocent, but out of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).
There is a trend in our Christian communities right now which falsely elevates peoples’ honesty as holiness. People often think that if they are brutally honest with others about their relationship with God, their walk with God must be very genuine and true. “I had an argument with the Lord today about the weather,” “I was like, ‘Really God, you’re making me do this again,” or “Come on, Lord, you can bring the people. Why don’t you just bring them to my ministry?” These seem like statements that can only be made by someone who “is comfortable with God and really knows him well.”
But anyone who knows God well prays and lives in a different space than the “I wish” zone of life. I can’t seem to find that verse from Paul that starts with, “God, I wish you did this differently.”
Honesty is crucial for holiness, but honesty in one’s flesh without repentance is certainly worse than ignorance, for it shows that not only is your relationship with God dysfunctional but also that you don’t care. When we state that we wish this or that was different, we are manifesting what is in our heart – discontentment with God.
Paul said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12, 13).
When we are internally satisfied with Christ, we can be externally content with imperfection. Paul said, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). For example, when we wish God would have stopped us from some sin and then we allow this to cause us depression, we are claiming what Christ did on the cross is not enough. He doesn’t have to stop our every sin because he sent Jesus, who is more than enough for even the worst of sinners. God’s plan of solving sin is greater than the “I wish” statements based in our limited foresight compared to God’s limitless foreknowledge.
We must pray, we must ask God to change those things in our lives which hinder our ability to glorify him, we must ask for our daily bread, and we must always be honest with God about our desires. But we must also remember that God is still The Holy God. He allowed his friend Moses to see his glory upon request but he also hid his face from Moses. Why? Because no matter how close and comfortable we get with God, he is still God, even with his most intimate friends (Exodus 33:12-23).
The danger of “I wish” statements is twofold. On the one side they show that your relationship with God is not your all satisfying desire. On the other side, it is blatantly disrespectful to order the only Sovereign God to do what you think is best, as though he didn’t already know.
May we, like Paul, be able to manifest the true desire of our hearts with the words, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ . . .” (Philippians 2:7,8). He’s not wishing things were different. His wishes have vanished in the reality of Christ’s greatness. We must pray about everything, share all of our desires with Christ, pursue what is good, but then we must rest completely in God’s peace that surpasses our earthly understanding (Philippians 4:6-7), forsaking all the “I wish” statements that are rooted in a desire for worldly pleasure.
Take comfort if you have not obtained this perfect contentment in Christ, for when Paul was on earth he didn’t either. But Paul was not only honest about this; he was repenting of it and seeking God more and more: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 2:12).
Honesty about our desires is where we must start. But contentment in Christ is where we must end.