“Or what person is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?”
As part of our lesson, my Sunday connection group teacher read words of Jesus in Matthew 7:9-11. I had read those verses many times over the years, but for some reason this time my gut churned. Painful childhood memories popped in my mind; my father was quick to give me stones.
While I was well-cared for during my childhood and never went without the necessities, and at times indulged, my father treated me as if I was one of his young Marine recruits. He demanded obedience, good order, and discipline at all times. I was afraid of him. I knew better than to question his authority. When I gathered courage to ask for something, the answer was almost always a big, fat no. I grew accustomed to disappointment. The expectation to always be disappointed followed me into adulthood.
“So if you, despite being 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!”
I knew God could do anything. I didn’t doubt God’s goodness, willingness or ability to so something, I only doubted He would do it for me. When I asked Him for something, I fully expected His answer to be a big, fat no.
Yet I desperately wanted to get past my doubts. I wanted to let go of the stones I had been carrying for decades. They were emotionally heavy. They were stumbling blocks.
So I asked the Lord to help me. He answered yes and began an uncomfortably slow renovation of my heart and mind.
I needed to forgive my father. Like me, he was broken, a product of his own collective hurts. I became aware of how unforgiveness had slithered into his life, stolen his joy and morphed into bitterness and resentment. He acted out of his afflictions. He denied me because he had been denied. He disappointed because he had been disappointed. He gave me stones because he perceived he had been given stones. My resentment dissolved and I felt compassion for my hurting father.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. - Psalm 147:3
I had been looking at God through a flawed lens. I viewed my Heavenly Father through the filter of my experiences with my earthly father. God reveals Himself to us throughout His Holy Word. In Matthew 7:11, while not spelled out in text, His characteristics are evident. He is our Heavenly Father. He is loving. He is compassionate. He listens. He is willing. He is generous. He is good.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, - Ephesians 1:18
I need to ask without fear. Since I know that I am loved by a good, good Father, who is waiting and listening, I do not need to fear asking Him for anything. In fact, He already knows the desires of my heart.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment,
and the one who fears is not perfected in love. - 1 John 4:18
I must continually trust God to work things out for my good. Trusting God with the details of my life is a continual, day-by-day, minute-by-minute deliberate choice. When I choose to trust Him, I can know with full confidence that whether His answer is yes, no or wait, it is always for my good and to accomplish His will in my life.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good
to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28
As I read Matthew 7:11 again, I realized I had been reading the verse incorrectly. I had been reading the text as if there was a question mark at the end of the sentence; in the New American Standard Bible, the translation I use, there is an exclamation point! And what a difference that punctuation mark makes!
When I read it as a question, it hinted of uncertainty, giving room for doubt, just like my thought: I know God can, I’m just not sure He will. When I read it correctly, with the exclamation mark, the verse pronounces with absolute certainty: God will!
As for those stones? They are no longer stumbling stones, they are stepping stones. And I will stand on them and boldly testify of the goodness of God.
For He has satisfied the thirsty soul and He has filled the hungry soul with what is good.
- Psalm 107:9