When God Doesn’t Do What You Ask

My redbud died. Well, actually it was Hope’s. We got it to celebrate her first birthday and planted it sometime early September. And it looked beautiful those autumn months–some of those heart shaped leaves turning crimson just before falling off. I had tried to picture it years down the road, how it would look in that spot and wondered if little hands and feet would climb into it’s branches and I’d thought about planting phlox underneath. It never occurred to me that this little “Hope-tree” wouldn’t make it through the winter.

And for weeks after the grass sprung up and the crocus bloomed and the daffodils came, I had walked out to that tree and looked for new growth. But, it never came. All the other redbuds have been at their peek all over our neighborhood, but not this little guy.

I bend a branch and it snaps. 

And I know it seems strange but I ask God if He would revive it. For a few weeks, I ask Him. And I had the most radical faith that He would. I mean, after all, He’s the One who made all the trees and everything out of nothing. It’s no big deal for Him to make the sap run again and tender little leaves to unfurl.  

But, He doesn’t. I snap another branch. There’s no life. Just brittle limbs.

And at first I’m confused and my feelings are hurt. I know it’s ridiculous, because it’s just a tree, right?  But it’s our “Hope-tree” and what kind of God doesn’t want His children to believe that there’s hope? I take it so personally. And I start to ask Him why. Why does He do His own thing? Why doesn’t He do what I ask? Doesn’t He want me to feel loved?

I remember a verse from His Word:

Though the fig tree doesn’t blossom and there are no grapes on the vines. Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food. Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God, my Savior. (from Habakkuk 3:17-18)

I think about what it means. What it means right now, to me. Even though my redbud tree died, and God didn’t bring it back to life like I asked Him to, even though I’m disappointed and a bit confused, I’ll still rejoice in my God. I’ll still be joyful in God, my Savior. 

I think about other people and situations in my life that are disheartening. Like, my friend who has cancer. And someone I love whose husband left her for someone else. And a little girl I adore who has had countless seizures and even the best doctors can’t seem to help. And I wonder why we should still rejoice in God when He lets bad things happen. When He disappoints. When He doesn’t do what we ask.

Today I read words from my favorite author.

With memories of gravestones, of combing fingers through tangled hair, I wonder too…if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see.

To see through to God.

That which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave. –from Ann Voskamp’s, One Thousand Gifts.

I go out to check on the redbud one last time and tell my God that I’ve accepted the fact that He’s not gonna answer this prayer the way I want Him to. But, this time there’s some peace in my heart because I think I’m just barely beginning to see.

To see that maybe the places that I’ve come to view as messed up, disappointing holes in the canvas of my life are just places for me to see what I’ve been mostly needing all along. More of Him. A means where I can lean in closer to His heart. His heart that’s always for me.

Something inside me grows a little stronger. Sometimes God heals places that I can’t see.


  1. by Monica on April 9, 2012  9:04 pm Reply

    wow maggs!!! ... thanks for this! ... just what i needed today. you have NO idea! ... God is so good!

  2. by Robin on April 9, 2012  5:31 pm Reply

    Thanks Maggie. I, too, am struggling with this. Not with a tree but with something else. I wish God did what we asked and gave us what we asked for but at the same time if He always did what everyone asked I wonder if we'd really be as happy as we think we'd be? Sometimes we just have to trust that God knows what He's doing even when it's not what we want.

  3. by Anonymous on April 10, 2012  4:34 pm Reply

    I struggle with this all the time because of intense suffering - not mine, but my mom's. I ask and ask. I can't see why it would not be His will to ease the suffering of an old woman - to give her a good night's rest, to take away the horrible imaginary things that creep from under the furniture and crawl into her bed, to give her peace in a mind that no longer works properly. I confess that at times I am somewhat bitter. But when I cast about for hope, He is the only one there. When I weep for her mental anguish, my Heavenly Father is my only comfort. I think of Jesus, praying in the garden, sweating great drops of blood, and I know that He understands mental anguish. He went through it all, just for us, just for me, just for my mom. I am still sad, I still wish He would do what I ask, but I've determined in my heart to praise Him no matter what. This life and its pain is but a whisper in light of eternity. Someday, when He is ready, Mom will never, ever, ever suffer again. She will be clear of mind, her tongue will be loosed and she will shout praises to our King! Thank You, for that promise, Lord.

    • by Maggie Paulus on April 10, 2012  6:56 pm Reply

      Oh, how hard for your sweet mama. I'm with you--intense suffering is the hardest thing for me to grasp in this life. (Probably is for everybody, now that I think of it.) But, you're so right. Knowing there's a forever after this, it makes all the difference. One of my favorite quotes, "Can God not compensate in eternity the wrongs suffered here for a little while?"

      Prayed for you and your mama today. Clinging to Jesus with you.

  4. by Maggie Paulus on April 10, 2012  1:53 pm Reply

    Such good thoughts, dear Robin. I prayed for you today. Love you.

  5. by Anonymous on August 1, 2012  7:17 pm Reply

    Maggie, Mom passed away in May. I was with her when she took her last breath. The last few months leading up to that point were horrendous for her and so painful for me I can't begin to express it. I kinda wish we could see into that dimension, at that moment of stepping from this world into the next (only if our loved ones are saved, of course). I kept thinking I should hear the flutter of angel wings or distant shouts of "welcome home" or something. All I heard was her raspy breathing and all I saw were her sunken cheeks and vacant eyes. And then she was quiet. Gone from here. Shed this cocoon of a life and flew away home on pearlescent wings.

  6. by Maggie Paulus on August 14, 2012  1:51 pm Reply

    "And then she was quiet. Gone from here. Shed this cocoon of a life and flew away home on pearlescent wings." That was beautiful. Did you know that tree came back to life after all? It's thriving again. I guess God wanted me to know that there's always hope. (And knowing there is that Forever-life with Him changes everything.)

  7. by Anonymous on August 28, 2012  5:10 pm Reply

    Isn't that just like Him? Bringing things back to life. I'm glad about the tree. What a precious symbol of His awesome love and hope!

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