There are some wonderful moments in my life where God has answered my prayers with the desires of my heart. I have been given a beautiful family and a home that is easy to maintain and that is certainly answers to my prayers. I have friends who visit and that is answer to prayer. I have a wonderful son who is easy-going and loves God with all his heart and that is an answer to prayer. My health has improved as I age and that is a miracle. So many wonderful answers to my prayers have made it easy for me to rejoice in the Lord. But what about when God says “no” to my prayers, do I still believe in Him, do I still love Him, do I still feel loved by God?
I can think of several times in my life when I really believed that I was asking for the right thing at the right time and with the right motive but instead of hearing “yes” from God I received either silence and in-action or the answer “no” with really no explanation as to why. It is during those times that I have learned some valuable lessons about the Lord of my life.
For years I prayed that God would lead me to the right husband and that together we would work for the Lord in everything that we did. I dreamed of living on a mission field somewhere and working hard just to survive the daily elements all the time teaching others about the love of Jesus and all He had done for us.
I also dreamed of growing old with my sister and brother to help me when the time came to say goodbye to my beloved parents. I thought that I would have my siblings with me for a long time. I also dreamed of having my family close to me and that we would lean upon each other during not only the good times but the not-so-good times and that I would be active in my adult children’s lives on at least a weekly basis if not daily. I had seen my Mother’s family and how the sisters and brothers all interacted with each other as well as how my Grandmother’s sisters and brothers interacted and so I thought my life would be centralized around my family whom I loved dearly. My children would love each other and they would grow up loving their cousins and extended family as well. We would be an extension of prior generations and family loyalty and love would abound as well as faith in God.
As I look on these dreams now I wonder how I was expecting to be a missionary living on a mission field and living within miles of my siblings, parents and adult children but that was my dream. The desires of my heart didn’t really make sense and so it is really understandable that God said “no” to all those dreams. I did not live near my family for most of my adult life and my adult children do not live near me now. But God also said “no” to me having siblings to grow old with as my brother and sister were both deceased before my parents. I can even understand why God allowed their deaths earlier than I would have liked and I don’t question God about the why of losing my family members.
The struggle for me came when I pleaded and begged God to restore my failing marriage. I had prayed for years and years that we would place Christ at the center of our marriage and there were times when it seemed that Christ was the center. But there were also times when it was obvious to me that Christ was being forsaken for work and time and money. I prayed for wisdom in how to handle the burden I felt and I asked God many times for strength and guidance. God was rather silent during these stretches and I didn’t understand why. Then came the day I dreaded when my spouse came and said he was divorcing me. I prayed fervently for reconciliation and that our Christian witness would not be lost but God said “no.”
There may be a hundred reasons why God seems to restore one marriage but not another and I do not have the answer as to why my marriage was dissolved. But I do know that there are some hints in the scriptures as to how to sustain our Christian life when the desire of our heart is not being fulfilled. Here are some scriptures that helped me.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths. Proverbs 3:5-6, (Holman Christian Standard Bible or HCSB).
Be silent before the LORD and wait expectantly for Him; do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way, by the man who carries out evil plans. Refrain from anger and give up your rage; do not be agitated — it can only bring harm. For evildoers will be destroyed, but those who put their hope in the LORD will inherit the land. Psalm 37:7-9, (HCSB)
The one who trusts in himself is a fool, but one who walks in wisdom will be safe. Proverbs 28:26, (HCSB).
Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways. James 1:2-8, (HCSB).
Do you begin to see a pattern in these verses? I see that we are to never stop trusting our circumstances to our Lord. We are to seek wisdom in all things, not the world’s wisdom but God’s wisdom because our own understanding of our circumstances is limited. God, on the other hand, has no limits and is working some good in our lives. In my own experience when I am too busy to focus on the cross of Christ that is when I get off track and in order to get back on track I must be still and silently wait upon the Lord. My friends can tell you how hard this has been for me at times but there is value in being still and listening for God’s voice in how to proceed through the maze of our lives.
I especially love the passage from James. I certainly have found it difficult at times to find pure joy in every trial but when I surrender my desire and focus upon what God is doing in telling me “no” then I can honestly say those are not bitter times but times of real joy and relief. Notice that endurance has to be completed before we move forward. Endurance means we don’t give up, rather we wait sometimes, we run sometimes but we are never bailing out of the race. This is all part of God’s plan for our life even if we don’t understand why. I am finding that out of my pain and rejection and abandonment is coming some really wonderful gifts from our Lord. I am not bitter most of the time, rather I have found a new calling, a new direction to go with my life and meeting new people and doing more than I ever imagined. I am pretty sure this blog is but the tip of the iceberg of things to come. The desire of my heart has been refined in God saying “no” to me and now I am more contented and happier than ever in my life before. What the end result will be is not really important right now, God will reveal it all to me in His time. While I wait I continue to endure and that is all that is important.
Has God said “no” to something you have asked for in your own life? How are you handling it? I believe that when we begin to realize that the “no” was for our good we will begin to see that God has a reason for saying “no.” I think about the best verse for moving forward is found in Romans.
In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:26-28, (HCSB).
You see God is at work in our circumstances and the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf when we don’t know what or how to pray. It will all work out for the good because we love Jesus Christ and He’s working within the will of God in our lives. Perhaps the “no” we received to our prayers was something that was not the best for us. We can’t see into our future but God can and so we trust Him in all our circumstances that good will come from it all. I hope this helps to sustain your faith when God says “no” to your heart’s desire. He has something better in mind, just wait for it!