I was nine years old that Christmas, and I only wanted one thing: a puppy. I had been dreaming of stroking its silky ears, rubbing its soft belly, and playing catch with it in the yard for what seemed like forever. I'd read practically every book on puppy care at the library, and never missed an opportunity to try to convince my parents of the many benefits of owning a dog. I had even prayed for a puppy. And today, my wish was about to come true. Underneath the tree at Grandpa Petersen's house sat a large box wrapped in pretty paper with my name on it. It was big and stood upright. I knew it was my puppy.
My turn came. I went to the box, eagerly tore off the paper, and pulled open the top. There, nestled in the big cardboard box, was...a suitcase?! Yes, it was a suitcase. An ugly, forest green suitcase. I felt bewildered and dismayed. Was this a joke? I had asked for a puppy, not a suitcase. I looked up to see if anyone was laughing, if maybe they were hiding my real present--my puppy--somewhere else, but they all seemed genuinely pleased for me. My grandpa beamed. I remember thanking Grandpa politely for the gift, but wanting to cry. This wasn't what I had asked for.
As I look back now, I can laugh at the story. I still don't know why Grandpa bought me a suitcase for Christmas, but I do know that it was one of the most useful gifts I've ever received. That suitcase has been with me on countless vacations with my family, traveled around the world to West Africa where I lived with missionaries for six months, gone on multiple mission trips, and accompanied me on my honeymoon to Hawaii after I married the love of my life. And the puppy that my parents gave me a few months after that fateful Christmas? Well, she has long since passed away.
As I think of that suitcase, I'm reminded of many other requests I've made of God that have been answered differently than I hoped. How many times have I envisioned exactly what I want, only to have Him give me something else entirely? Maybe you know what I'm talking about. You asked God for a healthy, "normal" child, but the one He gave you has special needs. You prayed for your sick loved one to be healed, but they weren't. You've begged to be delivered of this unpleasant circumstance or that one, but you're still here.
This isn't what you asked for.
When I have asked the Lord for something but I receive something else, I'm faced with two options. I can cry and fight and plead for God to give me what I want. Or, I can accept that in His infinite wisdom, He has not chosen to give me what I asked for, and give thanks. Far too often, I respond with the former. But I am striving to be a woman who responds with the latter, instead. It's hard to do. But it gets easier as I remember the character of God. He is loving, holy, and gracious. If He allows a circumstance or gives a gift that I do not want, I don't have to understand why. I just need to respond with thankfulness and trust.