Does it seem that God doesn’t pay attention to you? That he doesn’t answer your prayers? The problem may be that you believe God is like a vending machine. Something you look for when you need a snack or beverage. You feed money into it, push a button to select your product . . . and walk off immediately with what you ordered.
Fact is, God is a parent, not a vending machine. The particular example of parenting that comes to my mind is that of a cow with her calf. I don’t mean to compare God to a bovine. I’m just saying you can understand a lot about God by observing the animal parents he created.*
A calf looks to his mother for everything. She keeps him well-fed. She is his protector from the world out there. She is his comfort and companion. As his legs develop, he occasionally frolics in circles close to his mother, but he doesn’t let her out of his sight. And, at first, she stays in one small area with her baby.
Eventually, though, the cow walks off with the other cows to the pond to get a drink. Her offspring bawls in protest, “Mommy, come back. Where are you going?”
She doesn’t stop, so he anxiously starts out after her on his spindly legs.
“Mo-o-m-m. Stop! I can’t walk that far.”
But she ambles on.
. . . Fast-forward a few minutes. The calf makes it all the way to the pond, as his mother knew he would. . . . Fast-forward a few months. The calf now knows all about The Pond with its refreshing water–and all the lush, green hillsides on the way.
As a young adult I had a bad habit that made life difficult. I really wanted to get over it, so I prayed about it often. I was not able to overcome it, and, in fact, it caused me a lot more trouble. I was confused. Why did God not help me?
I did not know how deep the roots of the problem were. But my heavenly parent did. As soon as I prayed for help he set me on the road to success. This road presented enough challenges to keep me running to him, and enough godly influences to help me grow up spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Then, when I was ready, the same situation came around again. This time I overcame, and–in the process–was healed of the emotional pain that had caused the bad habit in the first place.
My point is this: I didn’t get my answer as soon as I put my coins in the slot, so to speak. Because God was not my vending machine. He was my father. I stayed close to him, because he was my safe place, my happy place. As I stumbled along after him, he led me to what I had asked for–and a whole lot of other things I didn’t even know I needed.
May I encourage to never say, “God did not hear me.” Why do you think he got up and walked off? He’s heading in the direction of your answer. Just follow him.
Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG, emphasis added).
*I got the idea for the cow-and-calf illustration from an article in a cowboy newsletter. The name organization was something like “Cowboys for Christ.”