When God Gives Us What We Need (But Not What We Want)

This morning, I was working on a Bible study and had a list of things to get done. You can probably relate, right?

Then, out of seemingly nowhere, a thought popped into my head:

God is giving you what you need in this season.

Yeah, okay. I know that’s true—God provides for my needs every day, including needs I’m not aware exist until He fills them.

Yet I couldn’t shake this thought, and I kept going back to the principle of needs vs. wants. Bear with me now as I think through what I needed to hear from God today. Maybe you need to hear it, too. 

As a child, I can remember going to the grocery store with my dad. My favorite aisle was the cracker and snack aisle. We’d usually pick out some variety of Cheez-it to take home, but my eyes would sweep the assortment of everything else on the shelves. It all looked so GOOD.

I can remember thinking as a kid, “When I’m older, I’m going to buy any snack in this aisle that I want. I’ll be able to choose and eat everything that looks good, not just Cheez-its.”


What a ridiculously specific child-like hope. It represented independence and the ability to choose what I wanted. You may have had a similar thought as a child at the grocery store or mall. Now, however, as an adult (I’m not sure when that whole “adult” thing happened, but here we are), I don’t actually buy lots of boxes from the snack aisle. In fact, I rarely even go down that aisle.

It’s a simple example, but it reminds me of Israel’s desire for a king. In 1 Samuel, the people plead for a king. Not just any king, though. They want him to look like a king based on their standards: He needed to be handsome and strong.

In 1 Samuel, we see the peoples’ plea, even after the priest, Samuel, warns them that a king will not fulfill their needs:

But the people refused to listen to Samuel.

“No!” they said. “We want a king over us.  Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

-1 Samuel 8:19-21

These people have had a long road of slavery and hardship that has now led them to the land that God had promised them. In their eyes, they need a king. How else will they be a thriving nation?

Their motivation for wanting a king is also interesting—their reasoning is to “be like all the other nations”. They are discontent with where they are when they look around and compare. In turn, they think they know exactly what they need.

I can completely relate.

I so often am prideful enough to think that I know what is best for myself. My limited viewpoint yields assumptions that lead to me thinking I know what I need, and that I need to make it happen. Super humble, right?

I struggle to trust God when answers seemingly appear to be within my grasp. If I think I’m able, I depend on myself rather than on God. I look to my own perceived ability, which are the abilities He gave me! Pretty backwards, right?

The people of Israel were given a king through Saul, but that wouldn’t end well. In contrast, however, Isaiah 9 tells us of the King they actually needed—the King that they were promised.

Spoiler alert: It’s Jesus.

“For to us a child is born,
    to us a Son is given,
    and the government will be on His shoulders.
And He will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of His government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over His kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.”

-Isaiah 9:6-7

So, this is talking about Jesus.

Rather than giving the people the impressive king they thought they needed, they (and we) are given a King in Jesus—who is foretold as a child.

I don’t know about you, but the idea of a child as king isn’t comforting. My mind goes to the TV show Parks and Recreation, where one of the characters, Ben Wyatt, is appointed as mayor of his town while still in high school. Unsurprisingly, things don’t end well, yielding hilarious results.

Yet this is to some degree what the people of Israel are promised—that their King will come to them as a baby. Not someone with an extensive resume of war victory, but as a child with humble beginnings.

Throughout His life, it is seen that Jesus is no ordinary child, but until then, the people have to choose to trust that the King they will be given is going to be sufficient.

The description of Jesus in Isaiah 9 is beautiful.

We see Him as loving, but also as one who leads with justice—and this is a good thing, especially for these people. Time and time again they are given kings who are unjust and prove that they are not the promised king. They look out for their own interests and most kings eventually lead the people down a worse path than they had started on.

However, they have a promise.

They know that THE King is coming.

Rather than focusing on their current circumstances (as the people of Israel did in 1 Samuel 8), they needed to trust God to provide for their needs. They wanted a king that would fit their ideal, but God instead provided the King that they needed.

This so clearly applies to us today.

I (and maybe you) lack perspective and struggle to trust God regularly. I am like a child who sees lots of candy at Walmart and wants to eat it all at once. In the child’s mind, this makes sense: it will taste good, so why not have it?

Thankfully, the parent has perspective. They know that eating tons of candy is not good for their child. They have the wisdom to see beyond the present desire for instant gratification and can foresee the child bouncing off the walls with a sugar high, an impending stomachache, and cavities galore.

God is the wise parent.

Today, let us acknowledge our tendency to rely on self, rather than trusting that God knows our needs. He loves us enough to not give into all of our wants.

I am praying during this Christmas season to be aware daily of my need for the true King.

4 thoughts on “When God Gives Us What We Need (But Not What We Want)

  1. Love this and it is such a great reminder. I’m study 1 Samuel in a bible group and I have learned so much about myself from this study and how it points to Jesus even then.

  2. I love this article, Carmen! I think this is a great reminder, especially since I am in the midst of several transitions in my life right now. I hate change, but God has often shown me through change that it is often what I needed.

  3. Thanks for the encouraging article. It’s good to know we have a heavenly Father who has our best interests at heart more than we know ourselves. I have however sometimes felt God has given me things I neither want nor think I need and still can’t see any real purpose to it even years later, while not receiving other things which I do feel I need and want.

Let me know what you think!

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