The sentence is there, tucked into Ryle’s explanation of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. It’s a short sentence. But the statement comes to mind when I’m in a conversation with someone who yearns for beautiful earthly goods, or when a friend is diagnosed with a feared illness. I remember that “God often wisely withholds worldly prosperity, health, and money from His child.” Wisely withholds?
“Christ gives his people eternal life. He bestows on them freely a right and title to heaven, pardoning their many sins, and clothing them with a perfect righteousness. Money, and health, and worldly prosperity He often wisely withholds from them. But He never fails to give them grace, peace, and glory.” (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, John 10)
Are you waiting for something that, deep within, you’re sure the Lord has withheld from you? Maybe it’s your dreamed-of home, or the salary increase that would put an end to your financial worries. Maybe it’s the doctor’s end-pronouncement to a lengthy time of chronic health fears.
What are you waiting for? And could it be that God withholds because He has greater plans for you?
He tells us that He plans for His children to become full and whole, recreated into the image of His Son. He’d have His loved ones become more and more holy, like Him. And if you’re His child, He’d have you need Him desperately, for you can do nothing of eternal value apart from Him. He knows that when you’re content with and surrounded by earthly riches and health and prosperity, you slide away. You think you don’t need Him. You worship your ease and your stuff. (Rom. 8:29, I Pet. 1:15-17, John 15:5, Heb. 2:1-2, Deut. 8:2-18)
He knows that we’re easily fooled. We quickly begin to seek counterfeit peace. We fall into the trap of believing He has maliciously withheld from us. But don’t be fooled. Don’t believe the lie that He’s withholding what you need for happiness. He understands that what His child really needs is grace and peace and glory. Grace from Him, peace in this life and the next, and glory yet to come. And so He withholds in order to give better. He gives not as any earthly money, health, or prosperity could ever give:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
So when you find yourself yearning for the lovely home (or lifestyle) of your dreams, or more money to quell your daily tensions, or good health to subside your need for humbled faith, pray to your Father, who delights to care for you. Lay out your requests before Him. But also pray for faith to trust Him, so that you can rest with contentment if He chooses to withhold. And as you request and pray for faith to be able to rest, also recite. Recite Ryle’s words to yourself. Recite and rejoice. Rejoice that your Father always gives best:
Money, and health, and worldly prosperity He often wisely withholds from them. But He never fails to give them grace, peace, and glory.