When I was a child, this was my favorite Gospel. To my child's ears, it sounded like if I wanted something all I had to do was to pray really hard. A new bike for Christmas? Done. Good weather for my birthday party? All I had to do was ask.
Eventually, of course, I figured out that the world didn't work that way. Sometimes I didn't get everything on my list for Christmas and sometimes there was bad weather on my birthday.
Many non-believers get stuck there. If there really is a God, why does He allow bad things to happen? In fact, why does He allows relatively trivial annoyances to occur, such as a 10-year-old boy with tears in his eyes because it's raining on his birthday.
Theologians and philosophers have wrestled with the so-called “problem of evil” for centuries and it seems unlikely that a conclusive answer will emerge anytime soon. But for me the only plausible answer is that it's the only way for humans to be truly moral beings. If there were no evil, there would be no difficult decisions to be made and no sin. We would live in a world that would look like Eden prior to the apple being eaten.
While many days that might seem like an attractive option, we wouldn't be fully human, as we understand “human-ness,” in such a world. We would be like small children protected by parents from any hint of anything bad.
But back to the Gospel. So what does Jesus mean? I think Jesus means that God understands our hearts better than we do ourselves. If we open our hearts, we will receive what we really want and need, even if it's not exactly what we might think we want and need.
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