My uncle had a great idea but I know it wasn’t unique to him. He carried coupon books from fast food restaurants—just in case. From the Great Depression generation, he came to California with his family when times were tough, and as he got older, he wanted to help others in need. Although he never had to do it himself, he empathized with those on the street asking for money for food. According to my mom, he offered to buy meals for individuals, but his kindness was often turned down. It seems they wanted money. Compassionate, but not clueless, my uncle began to carry coupons.

I’m not sure about the motives of those wanting money instead of a meal, but it brought to mind the story in Luke 5:17-26. Those standing on corners and those in the story had their own idea of what they needed most and their own set of priorities. In the Bible narrative, a paralyzed man is carried through the streets in search of Jesus, the one who could provide healing, and I wonder if they were surprised when Jesus didn’t offer what they’d hoped for. Were they as disappointed when Jesus didn’t grant the physical healing they thought their friend needed as those on the street were when my uncle offered a meal instead of money?

The compassion these men showed for their friend was great and so was their faith. Imagine the excitement as the plan was hatched. “If we can get him to Jesus, he will be restored, able to move, walk and live a normal life. Let’s do it!” Imagine their frustration when they couldn’t even get into the house to see Jesus. If you know the story, you know they climbed to the roof, made a hole and lowered their friend into a room filled with startled people. “And seeing their faith, He [Jesus] said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’” Not exactly what they were expecting.

Unfortunately, we often have the same response. We know exactly what we need. We pray specifically for what we think will be the best solution to our problems, not realizing that Jesus may have other ideas about answering our prayers. The man and his friends wanted relief from the present problem, but Jesus knew that deliverance from sin was far more important than deliverance from physical suffering. Jesus also knows what we need to grow and mature in our walk with Him—and what it will take to accomplish this. I’m not saying we shouldn’t pray for God’s healing or His deliverance from whatever challenges we’re facing. He desires to bless us with all good things and wants us to bring our requests to Him. Just be prepared for whatever He decides to do.

Second Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Message) states it in words I can appreciate. “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes, compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

Pray for your friends. Jesus healed the man in the story. And if you’re the one in need, realize your appreciation for Jesus needs to go beyond what He does for us here and now—just in case.