Does God say no?
Of course He does.
But does He say no as often as we credit Him with the big final shakes of his head?
I’m not sure.
More often times than not when I look to scripture I see God working out His plan the following ways:
Miraculous yes-es, waiting, re-routing as the eternal second chancer, more waiting, something better, or tough lessons until the asker realizes if they want a “yes” they gotta start asking for the right thing.
The first one is rare, usually left to the Old Testament, and probably also involved some waiting and re-routing.
In fact, while yes-es are given in scripture, there’s actually almost always a backstory and a bit of untangling.
YES he provided a lamb as the sacrifice for Abraham instead of Isaac, a lamb in the form of Christ for us, a pillar of fire, baskets of manna, water from a rock, twice as many kids and livestock, a baby for Hannah, protection over Joseph…
But in all of those big YES-es here’s what came first:
Asking a man who’d waited till he was elderly to kill the one thing he’d been promised and waited all His life for.
The brokenness of the original plan for beautiful perfect creation and mankind’s relationship with God.
Enslavement in Egypt.
Death from thirst in the desert.
All of Job’s children and livestock being murdered by the Devil solely to cruelly test his faith.
Being unwanted, abandoned, falsely accused, imprisoned, and forgotten. More than once.
So does God say no before He says yes?
Or is it the pattern Adam & Eve established – of choosing self over God that wrecked everything? Is it Satan? Is it the free will that God allowed and sin that we employ rippling and growing over thousands of years that creates all the No-s?
Or is it both?
Oh I don’t want it to be both. I want to know the culprit, boil it down to a problem I can solve and then create the equation to fix it.
But this answer seems to be a both/and.
We have a God who says no:
“Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:9-11
And we have a God who says yes when everything else seems to shout no:
“I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses. I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned, their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick. But forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Isaiah 43:16-19
But as humans with finite understanding of the ways of an infinite, omnipresent, omniscient God – it really sucks not to know who’s saying no and if the yes we’re asking for is good for us … and how to even begin to pray.
Am I infertile because God doesn’t want me to have babies?
Well, His goodness could very much mean the adopted kiddos I’ve longed for.
Am I infertile because the brokenness of creation includes my disease that God never intended – but that He plans to heal? Or won’t heal on this side of eternity?
Am I unmarried because God doesn’t want me to have an earthly partner / romantic love / sexual fulfillment per His design?
Or am I without those things because the three men that promised them (the first proposed, the second bought me our dream home, and the third swore to love me ‘for eternity’) said No even though God was desiring a Yes?
Or am I without because those men were pushing for a Yes, but finally heard God say No – even though I didn’t?
Or is there something/someone better than any husband I’d envisioned before still on the way and waiting is the exhausting plan?
Or is God out of redemptive options after bring me a second hope for the first that left and a third for the second, with now no possibilities to redeem the broken hope from the third man leaving to marry someone else?
Or is it my fault?
Am I unmarried because I’m not thin? Too loud? Too opinionated? Didn’t attract the ‘right’ man because on the day we met I wasn’t wearing my hair down and curled with enough makeup on? Is it because I don’t use enough dating apps? Because I didn’t ‘trust God’ and tried dating apps? Because I’m too independent? Because I can’t give birth to babies? Because I have college loans? Because with this broken of a heart I’m damaged beyond desirability?
Or is it that God has forgotten me?
Does He just love His other kids so much more than me that He sees fit to give them spouses, children, honeymoons and housewarmings because I haven’t earned it yet?
How did I fail?
What more do I have to do?
How do I fix it?
Why did God say no?
Why is God saying no?
Who do I have to be like to receive the blessings they receive?
Which words am I not praying the right way?
When will God respond to me? Direct me? Help me? Answer me?!
WHY WON’T GOD SAY YES!?
Do you see how debilitating this constant whirlwind of wondering is?
Without knowing if we are to receive the no, push for a yes, wait for a yes, accept the no as a yes, or admit defeat… the hamster wheel of “why” and “how” and “what” and “when” and “who” spins to the point of utter exhaustion, we can’t figure out the equation so we succumb to the paralysis of being unable to ‘make it better’, or worse, the answer we arrive at is that there must be no God, and if there is, He isn’t good.
We don’t know if we should blame the enemy or acknowledge God’s responsibility in the answer / silence / season… and it chips away at our strength. While we’re taught that faith is believing in what we don’t see, the very fact that we can’t ‘see’ the author, the answer, or our way out can destroy the faith we’ve spent a lifetime building up & returning to even in our desolate valleys.
All I know is that there are some prayers I can no longer pray, I’m too tired.
There are some stories I can no longer tell.
Regardless of who said it, I can’t take any more “No-s” so I have to stop hoping.
And there are many of you, whether you can post about it on instagram or talk about it openly in your living rooms – I know for certain you’re there too. I have names in the forefront of my mind as I type – friends whose children have died, friends whose spouses have died, friends who are sitting through chemo, friends who were raped, friends whose husbands cheated and left, friends who have prayed and prayed and prayed for pregnancy but are still without a baby, friends who have gone to school with huge dreams and work for minimum wage, friends whose call to missions has hurt them in innumerable ways, friends who have had to say goodbye to lives they love because of physical illness, disease and tragedy…
It’s moments like this, almost destroyed by the no-s, that the only place I can return to is one of simplicity.
I hope these truths gently whisper renewed hope to both of us today.
“This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Son though he was, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Regardless of who or how you’re hearing “No” right now, how exhausted you are fighting for that “Yes” (when it seems to come so easily to others) or figuring out how to give it up, these scripture passages we can write on our hearts in permanent marker remind us that…
There’s help to know how to pray, thanks be to God.
There’s grace from a Savior who also offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears, thanks be to God.
There’s milk when we can’t chew any more big hard truths and we’re tired, thanks be to God.
There is mercy. There is grace to help in time of need. Thanks be to God.