When God Wants You Unhappy

I recently got a Facebook message from a well-meaning Christian friend. It read as follows:

“God has seen everything you’ve been going through, and He told me to tell you ‘IT’S OVER’! Your trial has ended, and now God’s about to open up the windows of heaven to bless you beyond your wildest dreams!!!!!”

(Full disclosure: I may have actually miscounted the number of exclamation points. My apologies).

Then there was the usual threat that if I didn’t forward this to three or more people, I really didn’t love God and enormous trials would come my way (Hey, I thought God said ‘IT’S OVER!’?).

I love God, but I truly hate stuff like that – things that build up false hopes, and do so in God’s name. I mean, really, God doesn’t say anyone’s trial is over just because I posted some message on your Facebook page! I know they say “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings”, but that message won’t end anyone’s trial no matter how corpulent the sender!

In the past, I’ve done ministry to inmates in jail. I’ve given them Bibles, counseled them, and organized classes for them to attend. But one thing I DON’T do is march into their cells yelling, “GOD SAYS YOUR TRIALS ARE OVER! YOU’RE ALL FREE!” I can only imagine the blank stares I’d receive.

The hard news is there are times when it’s God’s will for us to be held in a trying situation. Passionless marriages, rebellious children, dead-end jobs, and even extended illnesses (sorry, faith-healing friends) are places where God sometimes chooses to deny our parole.

You remember Joseph – he of “Technicolor DreamCoat” fame? He’s the spoiled brat who bragged to all his brothers God would make him ruler over them all. Though Joseph was gifted by God to interpret dreams, he unfortunately was not gifted with great people skills and wound up dumped in a well. A stream of crises put him in a prison, though he was innocent of any wrongdoing.

Like Joseph, you need to understand that the reason you’re stuck in some current “prison” is God may be holding you there. I know we can’t imagine God doing that, but He really does have His reasons.

I remember one lady I was counseling with marriage problems. She told me God told her to get a divorce, even though it was clear the marriage could be saved. How did she know God was OK with it? Because “God wouldn’t want me to be unhappy, would He?”

Here’s a big shocker for many of us: God is not that interested in you being happy! Yes, read that line again if you can’t believe it. Let it sink in. Feel the warm fuzzies draining from your body. And there’s a good reason for that – He knows our “happiness” is a flighty thing, based on fickle feelings and whimsy…and not on Him.

However, He is totally invested in making you complete, fulfilled, and mature (James 1:4). And usually, in fact quite often, He will accomplish that by putting you in an extended trial – a prison of circumstances. His goal is never to do you harm, but instead to produce the character traits you currently are lacking.

I was trapped once in a place I hated. I was disrespected, spied on, and gossiped about even though I was doing a pretty good job. So after several years of hoping the situation would improve, I decided it was best to put out some resumes and look for a new job. I then waited for the offers to pour in…

Nothing. Crickets…no bites at all. Getting new opportunities had never been a problem for me before. What the heck was going on?

It was clear after a while God was the one shutting down every attempt I made to leave. God had me there to prepare me for my future. He brought out abilities I’d never had before, and developed a resilience to face new challenges.

My prison was actually the key to a brighter future – it was truly the doorway to my destiny.

Joseph learned a great deal in his prison. He learned wisdom and maturity to go with his spiritual gifts. He learned to recognize the suffering of other inmates and not focus on his own problems. And he was put in the perfect position to minister to Pharaoh when his dreams needed interpreting. All the negative experiences were indispensable steps toward his destiny, which ended up blessing not only him but his own people as well.

I’m thinking now of those inmates I served, and how much they wanted their freedom. But are they ready for freedom yet? Have they learned the lessons they need to learn yet? Or would their freedom be wasted now on immaturity and wrong motives that time hasn’t yet had its chance to purify?

Maybe that’s why God has you trapped somewhere, in some miserable situation. He is growing you, streeeeeeeetching you, maturing you. He may also be using you to help someone else trapped there. But He promises that, in the end, it will all be worth it.

We need to rest in the fact that when the time is right, a higher authority will turn the key Himself. He and He alone knows when we’re ready to be free. He is watching our progress, rooting for us, encouraging us not to give up. He will most surely give us our freedom, but not until we are ready.

So stop trying to pick the lock. Stop whining about how long it’s taking, because that may only make the wait even longer. Stop trying to dig a tunnel out of your cell with a spoon: you’ll only frustrate yourself. Stop fighting, and embrace what God wants you to learn and who He wants you to help there in that cell next to yours.

Then suddenly, when you least expect it, the door will swing wide open and you will step into your destiny. And the man or woman who walks out of that cell will be 100 times better, because they were willing to let God take His time while they were doing their time.

Watch Dave’s sermon on this same topic: Key To Your Prison

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “When God Wants You Unhappy

  1. i had a similar experience where the new “leadership” in my department had actually no expertise or leadership abilities whatsoever. Had no understanding of development, no understanding of the law related to children with disabilities. I couldn’t understand why someone dumb as a rock was promoted into one of the most important positions of all, but hey? poop floats. i don’t know if i can buy into God “choosing” to leave me in a difficult situation, where at least once daily, i had to intervene with the “business manager” to provide disabled kids with what they needed and were legally entitled to. I was never able to make her provide preschoolers with bus services, and for that I am I am eternally sorrowful. I figure you can pay for preschool or prison.. I learned how to have mini-strokes, how to experience a level of stress i’d never known before, and to become incensed with a level of anger i was not sure how to manage. And i know that all of this in total, negatively affected my brain, and my intellectual abilities. Fortunately, i have some cognitive reserve by which to play from. When i decided that I could no longer manage the insanity, i made the leap to apply at a number of other employers.. And everyone I applied to, offered me a position as i am well regarded here. I did take the best paying position, so there is that.. but there were profoundly difficult trade-offs. I gave up old fashioned tenure, and now at the end of the year i have to wonder should i be looking for a new position? I can no longer stroll through my many children’s classrooms, chat with their teachers at lunch, or go on field trips with them or visit parties during the work day.. Now my own disabled children are being treated in the same callous and ignorant way as those I previously advocated for, so perhaps that is the purpose of all of this? I just don’t know, and if I go toe to toe with these nutjobs.. what is the personal cost to me, and those educators i still hold in high esteem? I do intend to create change in a system that has been run off in a ditch by those who care little for children.. but do i believe that God cries when we cry? yes. And that God has decided man should have free choice, to make or destroy? Yes.. And that many of our own catastrophes are created by ourselves? yes most certainly.. i may be too close to draw any conclusions at this point, but it is still a question for me..

    • Carrie,

      A couple of thoughts…

      First, we only see the purpose in some of the trials when we get to a spiritual “summit” – a moment of perspective. This is when we are able to look back into a negative situation and recognize something very important God was doing through it. But until that specific time, everything may look like a big mess. Realize that true perspective may not become evident until that moment. Until then, you have to move forward while trusting that God has a purpose. Because He ALWAYS has a purpose.

      In light of that, your last statement may have been the most insightful…”I may be too close to draw any conclusions”. Exactly, you may just be 2 verses into a 4 verse hymn. You’re only 60 minutes into a 2-hour movie. When your “in the middle”, you wait, you pray, you trust, you keep putting one foot in front of the other. And you get up and take a shower when there seems no point to it all. ;0)

      Second, you seem to be ignoring the good you actually did accomplish. Sure, you didn’t make your enemies bow at your feet while proclaiming, “You’re so right and we were so wrong”. And there were things that should have changed that didn’t But we’re rarely going to get that obvious and complete a victory. The point is that in the midst of the battle, you did some good. Maybe not all the good you wanted, but still some. You made the world a little better for some of the kids. And that’s better than what they would have had if you hadn’t have tried.

      Finally, God’s purpose may not have been in what you’ve accomplished, but in what you’re becoming. Sometimes I’ll go through a trying situation and feel like I’ve completely lost. And by the ledger the world keeps, I probably did.

      However, after that trial has passed, I will notice little by little that along the way God was changing me. The trial transformed me substantially in some significant way. Maybe I’m wiser now because of it, and God is going to use that wisdom in a situation on down the road. Or maybe I am more patient now.

      In the worst case scenarios, maybe in my suffering I have been honored to share in the sufferings of Christ and thereby come to know Him in a deeper way. As Paul said, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death…” (Phil. 3:10) This may be my favorite verse now. It says there is a communion I have with Him as I struggle for an impossibly idealist goal, as I charge at another windmill, and by all appearances do not succeed.

      It in those moments where we gaze into His eyes and know that He has felt the exact same pain of the noble struggle. He knows what suffering feels like. Our eyes meet in that moment of pain, and I know I have one more thing in common with my beautiful Savior and friend. And in the process, I have become more conformed to His image.

      That, if nothing else, is worth any struggle!

      God bless you as you struggle on,
      Dave

  2. Happy Sunday! what a super post! I so much needed to read this!
    I can relate because I believe I have a ‘thorn in my side! I am going to be 70 & I still whine, murmur & complain whenever He tells me: ‘Wait’. I really dislike that word, and I know that until I get victory in this I will be doing just that, even tho I remind Him, that I know it’s in His time but, I’m not getting any younger! I am believing for more writing success as never before & 2 months ago, had to give up my job for health reasons & I also believe He uses the unpleasant at times, if He can’t slow us down. I’ve been stuck at home since Christmas & my sick time has run out. During this time I wrote a book, 101 Blessings, you may have seen me chatting about it on Jeff Goin’s sites, but guess what? I am ‘waiting’, but not complaining or panicking…For once! That’s more than a blessing, that’s a miracle because I’m a ‘Plan B’ person & always have been, yes, even with the Lord. This time when I prayed about my book, I asked Him to help me be a straight ‘A’ student. LOL! I did, you can ask Him. I hope that made Him smile, at least it’s a step. Thank you for sharing this post! It’s real, in my spirit, I know it. We aren’t promised a rose petalled pathway where we skip along singing “Don’t worry, be Happy”. This isn’t a Disney movie where everything ends happily ever after because there is ‘no ever after. With the Lord, working in us, we will have that reward…I’ll work….And I know I’ll worry sometimes, it creeps in..but I am ‘Happy’ & in this part, I will: Wait’, for the ever after. Thanks again. Blessings, Marlane