What Do You Wish For?
By Leslie Vernick
A remake of Disney’s Aladdin is in theaters right now. I took my three granddaughters to see it. You’re probably familiar with the story of the evil Jafar who would do anything to obtain the magic, golden lamp. He’s desperate to get three wishes so he can be the most powerful person in the kingdom. He was already second in command. He lacked nothing. But it wasn’t enough. He couldn’t be happy until he got everything he wanted.
Take a moment and imagine … if you had three wishes, what would you ask the genie for? What would take away your pain or satisfy your secret longings?
I doubt you’re looking to be the most powerful person in the world. In fact, your wishes are probably for reasonable, good things: money to pay off debt, retire comfortably, give your children and grandchildren a secure future. A loving and fulfilling marriage would probably be worth a wish. Maybe healing for yourself or someone you love.
In the movie, the genie warns Aladdin, “Here’s the thing about wishes. The more you have the more you want.” We see that firsthand when Jafar is lured into believing that in order for him to become the most powerful, he must become a genie and that becomes his third wish. Jafar is shocked and horrified when his wish is granted and he becomes the genie of the lamp. But what comes along with that power is also shackles and imprisonment in a lamp.
Friend, there’s nothing wrong with wishes. In fact, Jesus encourages us to bring our “wishes” to him. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6
But sometimes we fall into the trap of seeing Jesus as a kind of heavenly genie. We think we “know” what will make us happy so all God needs to do is grant our wishes. It’s important to remember that our earthly comfort and happiness isn’t God’s top priority. He’s much more concerned with our spiritual growth and our relationship with him.
Jeremiah 29:11 is a wildly popular verse that’s often taken completely out of context: “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
God actually gave this promise to the Israelites when they were in exile in Babylon. And they would be in exile for another 70 years. What’s more, people usually forget Jeremiah 29:7 where it says, “Seek the peace and the prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” God’s plan was a good one but it definitely wasn’t the easiest one.
It’s important that when we go to God, we go to him with humility, understanding that he is always our good father and will always do what is best. Sometimes his loving answer is, “No,” or “Not yet.” So the LORD must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help. Isaiah 30:18
Do you believe God is good even when his answer doesn’t feel good? How can you tell?
Well what happens to you when your wishes aren’t granted? Do you feel angry? Does God seem unfair? Is your soul downcast?
And it’s also important to notice what happens to you when your wishes do come true. Are you happy for very long, or is that wish quickly replaced with a new one?
Look at Hollywood and the people who seem to have “everything” that this world would call important. Yet so many have failed marriages, are drug addicted and have entitled and out-of-control children. Even suicide is high among the rich and famous.
See, the abundant life Jesus promises us doesn’t necessarily mean a easy or comfortable one. An abundant life is a meaningful one. It’s a life where you have something to contribute to God’s story and purposes. You are not the main character where God revolves around you, granting your wishes. Instead, God is the main character and because he’s God, he gets to call the shots because he knows what’s best and how the story ends.
Don’t believe the lie that you can’t be happy until… (fill in the blank). The only thing you truly have control over is how you think and talk to yourself every day. If you find yourself thinking, “I deserve...,” or “I should…” or “God should….,” be careful. Your desires can easily become demands, and ultimately, they’ll keep you from experiencing true joy or happiness.
Paul learned this secret. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12
Real happiness comes when our hearts and wills are surrendered to God. When we lay down our wish list and trust that he is a good father who gives us good gifts (even though they may be different from our desires). “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” Matthew 7:11.