Be careful what you wish for. It’s an old adage often stated because you might get just that thing you wished for. I would offer as a warning an axiom of that statement: be careful what you pray for, you may get it.
Some occurrences near the end of 2010 made me worry that I lacked strong, nobel character, and I earnestly desired that the Lord develop that in me. Early in 2011 I came across a quote that spoke directly to that desire, and I shared it here.
Indeed, I did pray to learn patience, love, and submission to God’s will. Something tugged at the back of my mind that the whole purest joy springing from the deepest humility thing may not be so pleasant, but I dismissed it. And honestly, I forgot about this quote and about my prayers to this effect in the weeks leading up to my finding it.
Then the rest of the year hit: the tragedies, the triumphs, the travels. At some points, especially during the personal tragedies (both those mentioned, and some that were not), all I wanted to do was runaway, find a place where life wasn’t so complicated. During this time, my friend Jen shared with me a powerful quote that helped me gain some needed perspective:
“God has shown me that He gave His people a bitter cup to drink, to purify and cleanse them. It is a bitter draught, and they can make it still more bitter by murmuring, complaining, and repining. But those who receive it thus must have another draught, for the first does not have its designed effect upon the heart. And if the second does not effect the work, then they must have another, and another, until it does have its designed effect, or they will be left filthy, impure in heart. I saw that this bitter cup can be sweetened by patience, endurance, and prayer, and that it will have its designed effect upon the hearts of those who thus receive it, and God will be honored and glorified. It is no small thing to be a Christian and to be owned and approved of God.” Early Writings, p. 71.
(Remember how I referenced drinking cups a couple of months back? Yeah, this is what I was talking about.)
I realized that, just like in my academic work, to get to the next level, I had to master this one. If I wanted to take my character to the next level, I was going to have to learn how to drink the cup now. This definitely helped when the other tragedies came. They were still bitter, but I started to learn how to swallow them nonetheless.
One of the ways that I learned to do this was a “prescription” I gave myself after struggling with the blues for a few days in April. I determined that life couldn’t be as bad as I’d been trying to convince myself that it was, and so I mandated to myself that I must write five things I am thankful for every day in my journal before going to sleep. Let me tell you, that first day or two, it was really hard. But after a week of learning how to rejoice and be thankful, the Lord truly buoyed my spirit up.
As I started preparing for this project, I decided to go back and read what I had written this year to figure out what holes, if any, needed to be filled in. When I read that post from last January on the quote about noble characters, the thought occurred to me, “see, this year hasn’t been for naught. God’s just been answering prayer.” And even though I don’t have answers for all my questions, it all made sense, and I have peace.
So yes, be careful to what you pray for, because God listens. Not only does He listen, He answers. And, even with the hard times, I’m thankful He did. He has shown me that I have so much to be thankful for, and has done so much to help build those weak areas of my character. I see I still have a long way to go, but I am encouraged. He has brought me this far, He will keep carrying me on. And He can (and will) do the same for you.