The Consolation Prize

At a county fair, the big prize is the giant teddy bear. It’s the one we all want to go for. Shoot the most ducks, and take home the grand prize! Play the ring toss, and we could win the championship! All we need is a hole in one, and with that toss of a beanbag, we’ll carry away the big kahuna!

In spite of the promises, how many of us have ever won that most elusive prize? For most of us, the challenge is the game. To really carry that teddy bear around for the day, or worse, to keep it in our house month after month would be a punishment rather than a victory.

Yet, we still aim our air rifles, and we hope beyond hope that we walk away with the biggest prize of all. We want it because it appeals to our emotions, not to our practical side. We want it just because we think we can have it.

Even as Christians we do the same thing. In Psalm 84:11 God says he will withhold no good thing from us. We read that, and immediately we pull out our wish list. A bigger house is first on our list, because we can host Bible studies in our new game room. Then a new car would be nice so that we can be on time for church. A wife or a husband is a good thing, so that we can have Christian companionship and support in our down times. Oh, and a big bank account so we can do more for the Lord.

We pray, hold our hands open, and wait on God with our hearts tuned toward him, asking in honest need and clear intent. There is no shadow of evil in our prayers.

And we are hit with God’s consolation prize. All we can afford is a one bath apartment. A new car? Instead, our old one needs a $2,000 repair. That person we’ve fallen in love with? He or she is wrenched away, and the hole in our heart is too great to bear.

What happened to God? He promised, and we believed. Where did his promised blessings go? We claimed Matthew 21:22, for it tells us that all we have to do is believe, and if we ask, it will be ours. And all we have to hold in our hands is the crummy consolation prize.

Sometimes the consolation prize is exactly what God wants us to have. That house will begin to own us. That car will become our roadblock to ministering to others. That Christian companion? Some things are not ours to claim no matter how much we hurt inside.

But why, we cry. Instead, we need to see our lives from a different viewpoint. If God heals us, we won’t have empathy for the sick. If we are wealthy, people won’t see the generosity that comes from our compassion for the poor. If we are wrapped up in love for another person, how do we fit God in?

We as members of the human race are driven by the problems we face every day. They make us who we are. If God takes them all away, we are no longer us. We become the empty-headed starlet that is demanding and careless of others’ feelings. We are the brash young athlete that spends his sudden riches on wasteful living. We are suddenly of no use to God.

Sometimes we get the big bear. Most of the time we do not. God needs more than just bloated, self-satisfied followers. He needs broken people who can be what he needs them to be: his hand extended to a broken and lost world.

Even if that hand extended is us, and all we get is the consolation prize.

When we are broken for God, we are exactly who he needs us to be.

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