Anyone who has raised teenagers knows those two words all too well. It’s a near constant refrain between the ages of 12 and 18, and probably continues after that as well, except you might not hear it as often if your children head to college. And I get it – I was a teenager once too, with that same unstoppable freight train of metabolism, that allowed me to eat a dinner on the way home from baseball practice and then sit down for second dinner when I walked in the door.
As a parent, though, I am now able to see beyond those two words, because there is a definite subtext. If you don’t believe it, then try this little experiment and see how it goes:
Teenager: “I’m hungry.”
Parent: “There are raw carrots in the refrigerator.”
Teenager: (Silence, contemplating next move. Then sulks away.)
It’s telling, isn’t it? Yes, I believe the teenager is hungry. But I also believe that, whether that teenager knows it or not, they had something different in mind to ease that hunger than carrots. To put it another way, there was a need, a need expressed, a provision given, and a provision rejected. It was rejected because it was not the preferred kind of provision.
As parents, we might be frustrated at this reality, but we should also be familiar with it. That’s because we tend to do the same thing with our Heavenly Father all the time. The pattern starts out the same – with a need. It could be financial, relational, emotional, or something in between, and we do the right thing with it. We bring that need to our Father and express it to Him in prayer. Then we wait for His response.
We are right to do this. God is a good Father who knows our needs before we even express them. Not only so, He delights in providing for us. Though the Bible speaks of this provision in many places, one of the most simple and beautiful is in Philippians 4:19:
“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
And He does supply all our needs. God provides. But we are like the Israelites of old, who were also hungry. And God miraculously provided everything they needed to meet that hunger – quail for meat, and the miraculous bread from heaven on a daily basis. But the provision provided was not the provision preferred:
The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Num 11:4-6).
We need money, but we don’t like the job provided. We need companionship but we don’t like the relationships in front of us. We need food, but we don’t like the carrots… or the manna. Oh God provides, but He often does not provide in the way we would prefer Him to do so.
So what do we do with our stubborn, hungry hearts? We choose the pathway of faith.
Faith adjusts around the provision; not the other way around. And the reason why faith can do this is not because it likes the particular provision; it’s because faith trusts the Provider. We look at the carrots or the manna or the job or the relationships and we choose, by faith, to believe that for some unknown reason, this particular provision is the right provision for us. At least for right now.
If we look back to that summary verse of Philippians 4:19, we see that this statement of confidence that God will provide for all our needs comes right around the time in Philippians when Paul is writing about the nature of contentment. This is something he has learned, he says – to be content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. He has learned, in other words, to trust the Provider. And the trust in that Provider is most expressed in our attitude toward the provision.