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When God Says No

When a child dies.

When a relationship ends . . . or never begins.

When . . .

You lose your job . . . and your house.

The adoption falls through.

A loved one is diagnosed with cancer.

A ministry fails.

When . . .

The craziness doesn’t stop.

Things don’t get better.

The healing doesn’t come.

The pain doesn’t go away . . . and all hope fades.

We all love stories of miracles. We thrive on the testimonies of those who can end their stories with how God came through just in time. What happens when God says no? Now, I realize not every bad experience is a result of God saying no. Sometimes, it is a result of us saying no to God. But how do you explain it when the barren couple, faithfully serving the Lord, prays believing and then is still left with empty arms?

The story of the woman afflicted with the issue of blood is a popular topic among Bible studies, books and sermons. We weep with tears of hope to hear how God healed her. I wonder about the other people in the crowd. Certainly, she wasn’t the only one who sought Jesus’s touch that day. Resurrection stories are sure to bring shouts of “Amen!” and “Hallelujah!” from any congregation, but what about the widow who’s only son did not live again?

Can you imagine what Job’s testimony would have sounded like if he was asked to speak in your church? “I lost my job and went bankrupt. I lost my children. I was afflicted with painful boils. My wife abandoned me. My friends blamed me. My heart failed me. The silence was suffocating. God never gave me a reason.” Wow. Do you think he would he be invited back to speak again? Probably not. Listen to what Job did say:

“‘Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

Job 2:10b

What do we do when God says no? I wish I knew. Two weeks ago, one of my dearest friends passed away. Only three short weeks before, he had been diagnosed with cancer, but on that Saturday morning, his heart gave out. They couldn’t bring him back. My heart aches because he is gone. I prayed for him. My son prayed for him. His friends and church family prayed for him. There was no miraculous healing . . . not in this life. But, oh glory, I believe in the very depth of my soul, he was healed. That day, at that very moment when life left him, he was completely healed. God finished what He started (see Philippians 1:6). I don’t know what to do or say when the answer to our most desperate pleas is no, but I do know one thing. God is still God.

“Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’”

John 11:21

Martha and Mary knew the grief of an unwanted answer to prayer. They loved their brother, and they knew Jesus did, too (see John 11:3). They pleaded for Jesus to come, but His answer was no. Why?

“Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.’”

John 11:14

He was glad that He wasn’t there when Lazarus died? There are just some things we may never understand this side of Heaven. God’s ways are so much greater and higher than our own that they remain a mystery to us. Yes, He gave an answer to His disciples, but do you think they understood? Would you?

In all this, in every no, God is still God.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26

What does this passage from John tell us about who God is? Since John tells us in chapter one that Jesus is God in the flesh, we can examine Christ’s attributes and see “the exact imprint of his nature” (see Hebrews 1:3).

When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer . . . God is loving beyond our understanding.

When things don’t get better . . . God knows every detail.

When the healing doesn’t come . . . God has a greater plan that we cannot see.

When a child dies . . . God is the resurrection and the life.

When you lose your job and your house . . . God wants you to believe in Him.

When the adoption falls through . . . God is weeping with you.

When the pain doesn’t go away and all hope fades . . . God is our life-changing, life-breathing hope.

If my friend could speak from Heaven today, I think I know what he would say. Maybe he would echo the testimony that Job gave. When his heart fainted within him, he cried, For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26, emphasis added).

When the answer is no, God is still God.

No matter where you are, no matter what you are facing, no matter what pain threatens to consume you, God is still God. You may have given up on praying. You may have lost hope. God is still God. He lives today! If you are one of His children, the same power that rose Jesus from the dead is working in YOU! Will you trust Him today? If you are far from God, He wants you to know that He is God and He is fighting for your very soul. Will you believe in Him today? No matter your answer, God is still God.

Will you let me pray for you? Dear Jesus, Oh Daddy, I don’t know what to say. My words fall far short of offering the comfort that I want to give those that are hurting, those who are looking for answers. Will you be near them today? Will you make yourself real to them in a way they have never seen before? Lord, I don’t like it when the answer is no. I don’t like it when the healing doesn’t come, the crazy doesn’t stop, and the pain doesn’t go away. But Lord, you are good and your ways are right. I know you love us and you hurt with us. Please, if it be your will, give someone a “yes” today. But Lord, if you have a better way, please give us an extra measure of faith—just a little more strength, comfort and peace. Help us to see you in every moment. Let us offer to you our hallelujah’s, no matter how broken they are. May we surrender everything we hold onto into your hands, and may you be glorified in the pain of our lives. Lord, you are good and your ways are right. Help us to believe and live like we believe. I love you. In your name, I pray, Amen.

For further reading, you can read God’s response to Job in Job 38-41. The story of Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus is found in John 11.

In loving memory of Fredrick Douglas Whitman—a dear friend who now lives forever in the presence of his Savior and who I will see again one day in glory!

doug smile

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