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When “Thy Will Be Done” Becomes Self-Protection

When “Thy Will Be Done” Becomes Self-Protection

I was restless. Many thoughts bouncing from one side of my head to the other, colliding and creating more thoughts. Silently, I watched the Black-Capped Chickadees dash across the yard into the white spruce right outside the window, their quickness mimicking the questions and fears racing through my mind.

How do you keep bringing your broken heart before the God who allowed it to be shattered?

That’s what I found myself wondering. It just seems easier to keep our distance and bury our longings in the tomb with all that’s been lost.

The Idol of Self-Protection

Praying for things we desire comes naturally for many people but for me, it’s a struggle. I fear my heart’s quick reaction to such prayers—how it turns my requests into idols. I don’t want to desire the created thing more than the Creator, so I don’t ask. But in not taking my supplications to him, I keep back a part of my heart from him, and therefore, provide fresh soil for the roots of another idol to deepen.

My “good” theology morphs into self-protection. You see, if I don’t ask for a baby, if a single gal doesn’t ask for a husband, or a cancer patient doesn’t ask for healing, maybe it won’t hurt as much if God doesn’t fulfill that desire. Sometimes praying “thy will be done” becomes a cover-up for “I’m too scared to ask” revealing the underlying disbelief in a heart.

The Good God Who Withholds

We struggle to believe God could withhold something good we’ve asked for and still be good himself. But we forget he withholds no good thing from his children (Psalm 84:11). Truly, he knows best. And because he is perfectly wise, good, and sovereign, we can trust he will always choose what’s best for us. Sometimes, that isn’t the “good” thing we hoped for because he has something better.

So often, we have our earthly good in mind, but our Good Father never loses sight of the thing which will cause us to be most blessed, that is, Christlikeness—our eternal good.

An Act of Faith

Many times our prayer for God’s will to be done becomes a way to dodge the discomfort of pouring our heart out before the Lord. For some, it’s an act of faith to pray “your will be done, Lord” while others have to step out in faith to utter the words “please, Lord.”

I’m scared to ask God for what he may not give. I have enough biblical knowledge to know I’m not promised a baby we can raise. Promises like that were given to Abraham and Sarah, Zechariah and Elizabeth, but not to Jim and Brittany Allen. I know that in his goodness, God many times withholds what we long for. Which is why it becomes an act of faith to ask.

Instead of clinging to my heart, trying to protect myself from the possible blow of God’s “no”, I lay it bare and exposed before him and echo Hannah’s prayer in her distress…

“O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life.” (1 Samuel 1:11 ESV)

Hannah had not been promised a child. But that didn’t stop her from pouring out her soul to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:15). She bowed down before her heavenly Father and cried sorrowful tears at his feet and asked. She didn’t add a quick “if it be your will” before her request. She simply asked. Just as a daughter would ask her father.

Because he is our Father, we must trust him to decide what is truly good for us. This is where faith comes into play. This is where surpassing peace can be found. At the feet of our loving Father.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11 ESV)

Let us pour our hearts out before God and ask for what we desire. But let us always do so with a humble heart, knowing he knows best and will do no other.

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8 comments

  • Amy Jenkins

    I definitely think it depends on how you look at it, where you are coming from, and what your true meaning is when you pray- but really it doesn’t. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us because we all need his intercession when we pray- he has the wisdom to word our petitions in ways that will please God and comfort us. (Ain’t it great that we don’t even have to know how to pray- that the Holy Spirit can convey what it is we really are praying for.) For me, I would never say that it’s not right to pray as Jesus prayed or as he taught us to pray- Thy will be done.

    During our struggles with infertility and adoption that wound up with us being childless, I prayed as Jesus prayed before his death- “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will but what your will.” I still often pray this way- because I truly don’t and can’t know what’s best for me.

    For the heart of the matter of truly believing in “they will be done” is trust in the Lord’s plans for you. Just as Jesus submitted to God’s will, we need to submit to it. We trust in him to provide for us and to bless us in his own way. We’ll never fully understand those ways while here on earth- our human reasoning will never match his wisdom and understanding. Often times we never know why.

    For my husband and I, we were finally lucky enough years down the road, after years of wondering if we’d ever understand why his clear plan was to leave us childless, to understand at least a part of his will for our lives. My husband was diagnosed three years ago with Congestive Heart Failure- a rare condition that he was born with. One we can now realize led to his father’s heart attacks, failed heart transplant and death. While the prognosis at this point is much better for my husband, we have not had to worry about children while in the depths of this- and won’t as the years go by and his heart functioning diminishes. We very likely would have unknowingly passed this condition along to any natural children we would have had. We would be trying to help children who had known such great loss either deal with another either potential or actual loss if we’d have adopted from CPS as we had hoped following us closing the book on my infertility. And my husband, I honestly don’t think could have lived with either situation. We always try to remember that God won’t give us more than we can handle- but how often do we get to look back and see that it’s exactly how he protects us like he did in this case?

    In many ways my husband’s diagnosis 7 years after our journey to have kids ended was a blessing and an answer to our prayers. We had been trying to understand why. I’ll never tell you that trusting in his will doesn’t bring heartache in our fallen world- it doesn’t mean that you just magically are okay with things- simply that you trust that he is doing his work in your life whether you like it or not. For 7 I had been wondering if the pain and the despair would ever go away, the heartache that would bring me to tears, the emptiness that there wasn’t a day to go by that I didn’t feel. . . and for me, it was pain, despair, and heartache was gone in an instant- I understood. I never would have imagined he’d answer that prayer for me so instantaneously and perfectly- my how trusting in God’s will works out in our lives. (Perhaps it should also be said, that mind we were always aware that at some point my husband might have heart disease- but never would have guessed that we were in that season of life- we found out when he went in for a baseline. . . he appeared to be perfectly healthy. I’ve lived my entire adult life knowing any day, any moment could be the last I have with my husband- that days and moments with him were to be cherished.)

    I can also say that those years of struggling with our own childlessness- 8 years of hoping to change things and 7 years of trying to fully accept God’s different life for us- prepared us for what was to come in our lives. We handled his diagnosis and future so much differently than we would have without the earlier struggles in our marriage (and boy were they struggles). God has grown strength of faith as we trusted in his will.


    • Brittany Allen

      Hi Amy! I appreciate your thoughts here and wanted to thank you for sharing your story. That’s so very hard but it is a grace to be able to see God’s goodness through his withholding children for your good. The point of this article was certainly not to say we shouldn’t pray thy will be done. But instead that when we pray it just so we can move on and not wrestle with God over our longings, we are holding a part of ourselves back from him. I previously would pray thy will be done in every situation, fearing that God would think if I didn’t, it meant I wanted my way and not his. This is just very untrue. We should always pray with a heart that knows God knows best and is willing to submit to his will. I thought I had explained that with clarity in the article but wanted to make sure by responding here. Hope all this makes sense.


  • Amanda

    Brings to mind Hebrews 4:14-16. I needed to hear these words today thanks for sharing!


  • Natalie

    This is exactly what I have been struggling with. Except that I’m praying for healing and salvation for an adult child who has been trying to die for the last several months. Thank you for writing!


  • Elizabeth

    Thanks for these thoughts. I have been realising of late that my hard won ‘acceptance’ of God’s will is often more like resignation than giving thanks in all circumstances. I hadn’t thought of it as self protection, but I do tend not to ask people for things for fear of rejection, and your words have helped me realise that I am doing the same with God! For years I fought him over what was happening in my life, then I (mostly!) gave up fighting. My challenge for 2019 is to learn to trust him more; and part of that is trusting that he does love me. I was particularly struck by the challenge to open up my heart, let it be vulnerable. So thanks!



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  • Louise

    God brought me to this post today via another website, just as my heart has really been breaking over the struggle with my two biggest desires. For a long time I’ve believed that I shouldn’t ask God for these things because it would mean that I wasn’t trusting him enough and would risk them becoming idols.

    But maybe I have just been trying to protect myself. I’d even convinced myself that God had already said no to one of the things because it’s easier than hoping for something that might never happen. Maybe God bringing me here is him telling me that I should ask for them. How do you know when God wants you to ask for something and when he doesn’t?


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