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Ungranted Desires

This entry is part 19 of 22 in the series Soul-Help Papers (Isaiah Reid)

Public Domain1

Chapter 18 of Soul-Help Papers
Isaiah Reid

“‘I pray Thee, let me go over and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon.’ But the Lord… would not hear me.”

— Deuteronomy 3:25-26 —

Chapter title overlaid on a rayed-sunrise-behind-a-cloud image, a photo by Eberhard Grossgasteiger on Unsplash.com“I think it is God’s plan
that our desires shall find realization,
but they must be in His order.”2

There were many others with Moses and Aaron whom the Lord did not permit to go over and see the goodly Canaan. With Moses especially, and perhaps with many others, the reason was not because Moses was not fully saved. There was no unsettled account. He made one break, but that had been settled at once. If ever a saint had a death in which the tokens of salvation were manifest, it was the case of this grand man among men, perhaps the grandest and most noble of Old Testament characters, if not of all Bible characters. So God’s reason for not granting his desire must not be laid in the fact that there was something lacking with his salvation, or that there was something wrong with his relationship to God.

There are other causes why many of our hopes are failures, and our daydreams and our honest and right desires fail us, than want of rightness in us. Human nature still, like Job’s would-be comforters, persists in charging all such failure to wrongness and one’s need to be right with God. Even Satan persists in trying to make us think that way about ourselves, if thereby he can succeed in making us miserable. It is one of his common wiles, and thousands suffer thereby. Let us notice a few points which may help at such times:

  1. One must be clear in his own conscience that all is right with God, else he cannot say to Satan, “Get thee behind me.”3 It is only when one is indeed right with God and knows it that he can say this to Satan with confidence and victory.
  2. If there is not this clearness of conscience, there can be no certainty that the ungranted desire may be granted, because the desire is wrong. This of itself only brings additional trouble.
  3. The thing we want may be right, yet God may have a better thing in its place, or a different way to bring us into its possession. Not all things which are good in themselves are best for us. It was good for David to be King, but that same office was not good for Absalom, though he much desired it.4 Another’s gift or fortune may be right in his case, but all wrong for us. God in His providence reserves special rights for some; He neither withholds nor bestows rights in any invidious sense, but in His wisdom apportions them to a select few. The desire of the mother of the two disciples that her sons should be near and intimately associated with their Lord was right, though her conception of how it was to be was all wrong.
  4. If all our desires were granted we would always be having our own way, and inasmuch as “His ways are higher than our ways as the heavens are higher than the earth,”5 by that much at least, we might fail to reach the best. I think it is God’s plan that our desires shall find realization, but they must be in His order. Getting our desires harmonized to His will and order is the trouble. When we can will what He wills and desire only as He desires, there will be no crossroads, and all desires shall find full fruition. We have our own notions, theories, and purposes from which we often have to be turned away before we can find peace. We think our plan is right, but God sees it is neither wise nor best for us, for others, or for Him, so in some way He has to turn us from our purpose and save us from failure. His way is the right way, and He cannot change it without making it wrong. So the only thing to be done is for God to change our thinking or else to see us suffer loss. In these things lie our disappoint­ments and crosses, the failure of hopes, and the heart tortures that often come to wrongly directed affections. So, also, in this same category many unanswered prayers find place. It was not because Jesus was displeased at our telling Him all our heart and asking Him for what we wanted that our petition was not granted; He loves to have us tell Him all. But He is so wise that He knows the best for us, and He is so loving and kind He will not give us that which is not best for us.

You have often come to Him and told Him how your very heart cried for a thing or favor, and though you knew He heard you, and you were accepted in His presence, and realized He did love you, and your love burned for Him, yet somehow you seemed to hear Him say, “Suffer it to be so now.” Your heart went sobbing away from the place of communion, not allowed the thing it so much desired. How your heart ached! How faith was tested! How you remembered those texts about His “giving all the desires of your heart!”6 Because there seemed to be a real failure in the fulfillment, your very soul seemed to sink within you, and the way seemed heavy and hard. The temptation will be to think, and question about, the answer to the prayer of the heart—all of it, the whole heart—or else to question your own acceptance with God. Be still. Wait. Not all prayers either need or have immediate answers, though they are certainly heard and accepted. Time may reveal things you do not now see. A change of circumstances may make what your heart so much wanted earlier to be now no longer desired. Wait. The time has not come for an answer. You may not yourself be ready. Your friend may not be ready. Life’s circumstances may not be ripe. The conditions not yet come may add a thousandfold to the enjoyment and the blessings that will come when God’s time arrives for the answer. Don’t charge God foolishly. Don’t let the devil tempt you to blame yourself with a lack of faith. Wait, but consider carefully: “Is the thing my heart craves right? Is it in accord with Scripture? Is it of my own devising; was it providential; or did it just seem pressed on my heart without thought or plan of mine?” It may be that in some of these lines light may come. Or maybe the heart just somehow will cleave to that which it knows cannot now be allowed. For instance, a relationship which is desired may be perfectly right in itself, yet the relationship may not be in God’s will, in which case the unanswered desire has found its answer.

But it is in cases of this kind that we are hardest won from our purpose. It is in this field the hard battles are fought. When the thing desired is a right thing in itself, God cannot condemn us in that respect, though perhaps He sees that the right time is not yet come, or that the relationship now forbids, or for some other reason it is not the best thing; so He cannot answer now, and the heart goes on crying.

In all such cases we may be unable to see where this desire in the heart may lead. It may never have the realization we expect, and yet be an untold blessing. Is it not possible for God to allow us a longing desire for some realization which is a long time deferred for other purposes than the anticipated realization? A high ideal, for instance, may have a wonderful uplift in it, though it did not fulfill all our fondest dreams. A personal friendship may not fully meet our expectations, and yet may be of inestimable blessing and help. An unrealized human love may, nevertheless, have ministered to the heart such wealth of pleasure, satisfaction and inspiration that life would have summed up a thousandfold less without it. Your struggle for an education did not result in the education wanted, and yet what you have had of schooling has so changed all your past that you would not be without it for the whole world. So there may be many unfilled desires which just as truly had their mission as many which have had fulfillment, or yet will have.

If you have an unfulfilled desire, don’t be discouraged. If it is a right desire, and you have told Jesus often about it, yet still it remains after you have told Him that He may remove it if He so wills, then take heart. It has a mission in remaining. That mission may culminate in full fruition, or it may still prove a great blessing, or in it God may yet show you His own way, of which, when you see it, you will say, and gladly, too, “Not my will but Thine be done.”7

This is the place God is training us for, where all our desires are realized, because what we desire is what He desires.



  1. The text itself is public domain. The original book, Soul-Help Papers, was transcribed by Jim Kerwin, biographer of Isaiah Reid, and co-edited and emended with Denise Kerwin. Annotations and emendations are copyright © 2008 by Jim Kerwin along with his other contributions to the online, print, and e-book versions of Isaiah Reid's Soul-Help Papers.
  2. Title image created using a photo by Eberhard Grossgasteiger on https://unsplash.com/@eberhardgross.
  3. Luke 4:8
  4. This sad story is told in 2 Samuel 15-18.
  5. This is a paraphrase of Isaiah 55:9.
  6. Psalm 37:4
  7. Luke 22:42
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