The following principle is frequently misunderstood (by me, at least, if not by anyone else): “Ask, and ye shall receive. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (1)
You see, God isn’t a vending machine.
We don’t insert effort, push C4, then receive the thing we wanted. Sometimes C4 spits out a package of broccoli instead. (And admit it, most of us would throw a fit if we got broccoli when we thought we were paying for a Twix.)
Asking doesn’t necessarily lead to receiving what we want.
Elder David A. Bednar taught that God doesn’t usually work according to exact formulas—choosing [x] doesn't always equal the outcome of [y]—because He deals in the complexity of individuality and nuance (2). He doesn’t promise that fasting will always result in healing. That paying tithing will protect us from all financial difficulty, or that daily family prayer and scripture study will ensure lifelong Church activity for every one of our children.
When I fall into the pattern of subconsciously viewing God as a vending machine, I end up frustrated. I feel shortchanged or wronged because I didn't receive what I'd paid for through faith, work, and sacrifice. Inevitably, Negative Nelly--that nagging inner critic--sticks her nose into it. For some reason, I unhesitatingly buy into what she has to say, and it's all downhill from there:
It isn't fair!
There must be something wrong with me.
I didn’t do enough.
I’m not worthy.
I don't matter.
God doesn’t care about me.
In reality, it's precisely *because* our wise Heavenly Parent does care about us that He doesn’t always give us that Twix. (Admittedly, it's a lot easier to believe and accept this truth when we aren't in the middle of something hard!)
God works with us on an individual level and not according to strict formulas, but some principles are true for every person in every circumstance. Here are three: God promises that when we ask, we will receive (3), that He will supply all of our needs (4) and that He loves His children (5). Not one of these principles guarantees that we will always receive what we want, in the way we want, when we want it.
Perhaps the greater blessing is actually not getting what we wanted.
C4 might not be the Twix I expected or hoped for, but it usually turns out to be the exact thing I would’ve chosen had I known in the moment what God knew all along.
1. Doctrine & Covenants 4:7
2. see "An Evening with a General Authority--Elder Bednar" (February 2020)
3. Matthew 7:7
4. Philippians 4:19
5. 1 Nephi 11:17