“Mommy, can I watch a show?”
“Mommy, can I have this toy?”
“Mommy, can I have a treat?”
These are just a few of the questions I get asked by my children on a regular basis.
Today, the answer to all three of these questions was no.
Sometimes we think we can help the situation by explaining our reasoning process to our kids, but more often than not this further complicates things. Not only do little children have difficulty fully understanding adult reasoning, but their little ears often only hear one word – no.
We hope that they won’t throw a temper tantrum, but what we really want is for them to trust that, as their parents, we have their best interest at heart. We want them to understand that we say no for a good reason and it isn’t because we don’t hear their request or love them any less. In fact, it’s because we love them so much that we say “no,” or “not right now.”
Yet, somehow when we lift a prayer request up to our Heavenly Father and He gives us a “no” or a “not yet,” we fail to apply the same logic. We forget that His “no” or “not yet,” is because He loves us and wants the best for us.
Sometimes we throw our own, adult version of a hissy fit. We get discouraged, depressed, frustrated, and stressed. We even turn our back on God and question His existence, turning to worldly things to fill an emptiness that only He can fill.
Other times we question His decision making process. “How could God allow this to happen?” or, “Why would He do that for them and not me?” We think, “If God really loved me…if he understood me…if He knew how much this meant to me, then surely He would…”
We forget that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts our higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). Just like the child who can’t wrap his mind around his parents’ reasoning, we can’t understand the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God with our limited worldly understanding. We want an explanation, but God doesn’t owe us one any more than we owe one to our child for not giving in to his every desire. When God says “no” or “not yet,” He has a reason.
Do not mistake God’s patience for His absence. His timing is perfect, and His presence is constant. He’s always with you. – Deuteronomy 31:6
What might happen if we trusted our Heavenly Father in the same manner we want our own children to trust us?
We might happen if we had faith that God is working for the good of all those who love Him (Romans 8:28) in the same way we want our children to have faith that we have their best interest at heart?
“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him?” Matthew 7:11
NOTHING SHORT OF A MIRACLE
That was the original title of this blog post.
Because after publishing A Letter to Parents of Children with Allergies and encouraging others to pray big, bold prayers…
After praying persistently for Luke’s healing from his life-threatening allergies and circling my prayers with God’s promises from the Bible…
After gathering together with close friends and elders of the church to pray over Luke, lay hands on him, and anoint him in the name of Jesus (James 5:13-15)…
After combining my prayers with fasting and doing everything within my control to pray like it depended on God and work like it depended on me…
I was hopeful that’s exactly what it would be.
I had faith that God could and would move that mountain (Matt 17:20).
But God has a different plan.
AN INFLUENTIAL TESTIMONY
When I first received the results of Luke’s allergy testing, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t have a story of miraculous healing to share. I was disappointed that God didn’t say “yes.”
But then I realized that what I had thought would be an opportunity to encourage and inspire others to put their faith and trust in God, what I had hoped would be an opportunity to bring honor and glory to His name, and what I had prayed would be an influential testimony for His Kingdom…
Because the true testament of our faith isn’t how we respond to life when things go our way, but when they don’t. It’s not about believing because we have proof, but having “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 1:11). Faith is not the absence of doubt, but the presence of trust. It’s continuing to follow Jesus in the midst of life’s uncertainties and allowing His presence to bring us peace.
“We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. Let Your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in You alone.” Psalm 33:20-22
When we trust in the Lord our hope is in Him – not in our circumstances. We are not shaken when life doesn’t go according to our plan because we trust that in saying “no” that He has a bigger and better plan.
When we trust in the Lord we understand that in taking us through it instead of delivering us from it there is a greater purpose. We shift our perspective from “Why me?” to “How can I grow through what I’m going through? What might God be trying to teach me through all this?”
When we trust in the Lord we persevere through challenges with knowledge that the testing of our faith produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:3) – and we know we don’t have to do it alone.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…” Psalm 46:1-2a
ACCEPTING A NO OR A NOT YET
God always answers our prayers, it’s just that sometimes His answer is “no” or “not yet.” Learning how to accept a “no” or “not yet,” begins with learning to trust God and becomes easier as we understand some reasons why He may be asking us to wait. Here are 6 reasons why God might be asking you to wait (or closing the door):
1. God is PROTECTING you.
Just as we might say “no” or “not until you’re older” to protect our children from something they’re not yet mature enough to handle, God does the same to protect us from going down a road we’re not yet prepared to travel. As we gain intellectual, emotional, and spiritual maturity, God may remove the roadblock, but in leaving it there He directs us down a more appropriate path for our current phase of life and what He wants us to learn. In other cases, God may tell us “no” to help us let go of something we were never meant to have or protect us from something that draws us away from Him. In redirecting our path or taking something away, He creates space for more of Him (1).
2. God is PREPARING you.
Sometimes we respond with a “no” or a “not yet,” to our children to teach them patience, encourage their growth, or prepare them for what lies ahead. Similarly, God may delay in answering our prayers because there is something He wants us to learn in the process. It may be to teach us patience, how to rely more on Him, or how to let go of control.
3. God is helping you PRIORITIZE.
Just like the mom who tells her child he can’t watch TV until he has cleaned his room, God may answer with a “not yet” because something else in our life needs our attention first. God often closes doors or delays growth in certain areas to redirect our focus on things that should take priority (e.g. our relationships with Him and others). When we learn to let go and let God, things turn out much differently, but much more beautifully, than we could have ever imagined.
4. God is PERFECTING your faith.
In order for us to become spiritually mature, our faith must be tested. One way God does this is delaying some answers to our prayers. Going through these challenges builds our faith by forcing us to rely more on Him, be persistent in prayer, and trust in His plan. It is our times of weakness when we realize we can’t do it on our own – that we, alone, are not enough – that we learn how to find our hope and strength in Him (2 Corinthians 12:9).
5. God is PLANTING seeds.
Just as we occasionally drag our child to the scout meeting, sports practice, or birthday party that they don’t really want to go to because it positively impacts someone else, God’s “no” may have absolutely nothing to do with us and everything to do with those around us. As difficult as it may be to endure pain and suffering for someone else’s benefit, there are times God uses a “no” or “not yet” to plant seeds of faith, bring others into a closer relationship with Him, and increase His Kingdom on Earth.
As believers we must remember that the challenges we face and how we respond to them have a profound impact on others and their decision to put their hope and trust in the Lord. We can choose to wear our hurt or wear our hope (2). We can choose to adopt a victim mentality and curse God for our misfortune or we can rise forth as a victor, live above our circumstances, and give Him the glory.
6. It is not His Will.
This one threw you a curve ball, didn’t it? What happened to all the “P” words?
That’s exactly my point.
We can follow all the guidelines in the Bible about how to pray to the point that we turn our prayer life into some sort of checklist where we believe if we do “all the right things” we will be rewarded. We can do everything within our control to “pray like it depends on Him and work like it depends on us,” but that doesn’t mean God will answer with a “yes” (3).
God is not concerned with what we do as much as what’s in our heart. The purpose of prayer isn’t to get our way, but to seek His will. It’s not about what He will do for us, but about how we can demonstrate our faithfulness to Him.
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14
This is a difficult verse for many of us because it means that our prayer life is not as simple as “ask and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7) – it must be “according to His will.” This is one reason why it is so important to read and understand the Bible as a whole, lest we pluck out isolated verses, read them out of context, and derive meaning from them which God never intended. It is true that a prayer offered in faith, when in accordance with God’s will, is capable of mountain moving. The trouble is, we have a hard time surrendering our will to His (an issue of both trust and control) and we don’t always know what His will is (see 7 Tests to Determine if it’s God’s Will). So, what do we do?
We keep surrendering to Him, seeking His will above our own. We keep praising and praying, waiting patiently for the Lord while preparing our hearts for a bigger and better answer. We stay humble and hungry, reading His Word and meditating on it day and night. And we keep asking in faith until God removes the desire from our heart or closes the door. Whether or not God chooses to move our mountain, He is honored by our bold faith.
WAITING TIME IS NOT WASTED TIME
As we wait, we must adopt a “growth mindset,” allowing our challenges to stretch our faith and strengthen our character while allowing God to chisel away our less than desirable qualities to mold us into His likeness. Through it all, we must remember to trust in the Lord and His plan. Have faith, not fear. Remain steadfast and focused – on Him.
Looking back on my life, I can identify numerous examples of how God answered my prayers with a “no” or a “not yet.” A difficult break-up where God delivered me from an unhealthy relationship was His way of protecting and redirecting me. A call to start writing followed by two years of being “led through the wilderness” taught me important lessons that have made me a better wife, mom, writer, and coach. Closed doors that I once thought were missed opportunities turned out to be God’s way of helping me focus on the things that really matter. Through it all, He continued and still continues to reach out to me, filling me with compassion for the things He cares about and instilling passions within me that I pray will plant seeds in others. Through it all, God’s timing has been perfect and his presence constant.
I invite you to check out the real life testimonies of other women whose lives have also been transformed by answered prayers – some yes, some no, and some not yet. Please leave a comment or share them if you find them valuable.
From Chaos to Clarity – Learning to Be Still and Find God
From Burdened to Set Free – Letting Go
From Self-Reliant to God-Reliant – Learning How to Fully Trust God
From Unworthy to Beloved – Breaking Free From Insecurity
On the Other Side of Despair – Finding Freedom and Hope in God
From Struggle to Strength – How to Not Give Up
From Fearful to Faithful – Transformed by His Living Word
From Deceived to Redeemed – Finding True Fulfillment
From a Religion to a Relationship – Seeking a Personal Relationship with God
From Heartbroken to Hopeful – Overcoming Loss
* If you found this post helpful, please subscribe to my blog to receive notifications of new posts by email. If you are looking for support and accountability to live a healthier, more God-focused life, I also invite you to join my FREE Fueled Fit Focused Facebook Community and check out my Health Coaching Facebook Page to receive daily encouragement and resources.
1. Johnson, MaryLynn. (2017, March). When God Says “No” – Dealing with Disappointment. desiringGod. Retrieved October 9th, 2017 from https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/when-god-says-no.
2. Lucado, Max. (2017). Anxious for Nothing – Finding Calm in a Chaotic World. Nashville, TN. Thomas Nelson.
3. Batterson, Mark. (2012). The Circle Maker. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
4. Bachinsky, Anna. (2014). When God says “Not Yet.” Daughter by Design. Retrieved October 9th, 2017 from https://daughterbydesign.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/when-god-says-not-yet/.
5. Warren, Rick. (2016, December). Why Keep Praying When There is No Answer? Daily Hope. Retrieved October 9th, 2017 from http://pastorrick.com/devotional/english/why-keep-praying-when-there-is-no-answer.
6. Warren, Rick. (2016, December). 4 Secrets to Answered Prayer. Daily Hope. Retrieved October 9th, 2017 from http://pastorrick.com/devotional/english/four-secrets-to-answered-prayer2.
7. Halloran, Kevin. (2013, August). 10 Hindrances to an Effective Prayer Life. Anchored in Christ. Retrieved October 9th, 2017 from http://www.kevinhalloran.net/effective-prayer-life/.
8. Piper, John. (1981, December). “We Have Not Because We Ask Not.” desiringGod. Retrieved October 9th, 2017 from https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/we-have-not-because-we-ask-not.
9. Warren, Rick. (2014, May). The Difficulties While God Delays. Daily Hope. Retrieved October 10th, 2017 from http://pastorrick.com/devotional/english/the-difficulties-while-god-delays.
10. Chan, Francis. (2010, May). When God Doesn’t Listen. SermonIndex.net. Retrieved October 8th, 2017 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRGi8IxWyTM.