By: Sabrina Peters
“You keep praying, but you’re only listening for the answer you want.” I was rattled to the core. I remember sobbing uncontrollably.
When God Says No
Have you ever wanted something so badly or prayed for something for a really long time and it just felt like God said, no. I know I have! Probably more times than I can count.
As an 18-year-old, I remember having this mad crush on a guy. He was a youth pastor at the time, charismatic, good looking, smart and funny.
Literally, all the things I thought I wanted in a future husband. We didn’t live in the same city but stayed in touch a little bit online. Ironically, I think I liked the persona I had created in my head, more than the person he actually was. I would pray about him, think about him and even wrote his name in some letters to my “future husband.” Yeah, weird I know.
Point is, I was sold. Hook, line and sinker. I thought this man was my future beau for sure. He ticked all the make-believe boxes in my head and my emotions went into over drive every time I was around him. (Which was like 3 times, because like I mentioned, we didn’t even live in the same city).
But, one day as I was praying, I felt the Holy Spirit cut across my thoughts and gently whisper. “He’s not the one for you Sabrina.” I was a little taken back. “Are you kidding, but he ticks all the boxes and I’ve been praying about him for months?” I thought to myself. “Why are you only telling me this now, God?” I blurted out. “Well, I’ve been trying to tell you for a while now, but every time I say no, you just shut it down.
“You keep praying, but you’re only listening for the answer you want.”
I was rattled to the core. I’m not a big crier, but I literally remember sobbing uncontrollably in my little black Toyota echo. I felt like a fantasy I had held onto for so long was being torn to shreds.
I was gutted. Why would God say no? And why didn’t He tell me earlier?
Side note* I never actually told this person I liked them. We never talked about our feelings, and I never once mentioned to him that I was interested. Regardless, I was still upset. At some level my mind and emotions were deeply invested.
Obviously, in retrospect, I can see that God was trying to guide me the whole time, but I actually wasn’t listening.
Through this somewhat insignificant situation, I learnt that God doesn’t always say yes. Like any caring parent, He actually often says no.
He often stops me from jumping into situations that aren’t part of my story. He teaches me patience and perseverance in the middle of the confusion. He stretches my faith as I learn to trust Him, instead of control Him. And look, I know this is bit of a silly story, and some of the prayers you’ve been praying have far more weight and meaning.
But my sincere hope, is to simply remind you, that He is God, and His perspective is often so much bigger than ours.
He sees beyond our immediate desires and is weaving together the beautiful tapestry of our lives. The Bible tells us that He is the Alpha and the Omega and everything in between. So, don’t lose heart. Don’t throw in the towel halfway through. Ask God what He wants to teach you through this tough situation.
Here are 3 little lessons that I’ve learnt over the years when I felt like God was saying no.
1. Trust that He knows better
Just because it wasn’t your plan, doesn’t mean it isn’t God’s.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-10
His point of view is one that stretches between galaxies and His plans don’t often unfold the way we want them to. The truth is sometimes a detour is actually His divine direction. Sometime a closed door, is for our benefit not detriment. Sometimes what we want and what we need are two different things.
God knew this guy wasn’t right for me, and that my “future husband” was actually right in front of my face the whole time. Cue Ben Peters, a man of integrity, intelligence, authority and passion. He knew that my Beni was the perfect fit for me, and the union of our lives wouldn’t just be about us, but for the greater good of humanity and His Kingdom.
Sadly, the young man I had a thing for ended up getting married and divorced within the space of a couple of years. These days he’s no longer in ministry and I’m not even sure if he’s walking with the Lord. I honestly, hope so.
Proverbs 3:5 – 6 puts it like this, “Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on Him to guide you, and He will lead you in every decision you make. Become intimate with Him in whatever you do, and He will lead you wherever you go.”
2. Remember He’s still working
Psalm 145:13 (TPT) tells us, “You are faithful to fulfil every promise you’ve made. You manifest yourself as kindness in all you do.”
So often we can feel like the promise is a million miles away, but little do we know that God is actually working it out. God is actually pulling things together. I’ve shared this story before, but its truth still resonates. Our daughter Liberty had been asking for a cat for quite some time. On several occasions she would slip something like this into her prayers, “Thank you God that you are giving me a cat. I’d like one that is fluffy….and orange….but if you can’t do orange, then black is ok”. This went on for literally years. Her persistence eventually paid off.
One night Ben and I just looked at each other and laughingly said, “So, when are we getting this cat?” (I didn’t want my child doubting the power of prayer, especially when so often we’re invited to be a part of the solution). I sat up in the bed, pulled out my laptop, went straight to Google and started typing. “Best places to buy a cat in Perth. Best breeds for kids. Things I need to know as a new cat owner etc.”
Halfway through my frantic search of a cute (and relatively affordable cat) I felt God gently whisper something to me, “Sabrina, what do you think I do every time I make you a promise? I start working on it. I start orchestrating the details. You may not be able to see it, but in exactly the same way you’re pulling things together for your daughter, I’m doing even more on your behalf.”
Oh wow, that got me. The line from a popular worship song began to echo in my head. “Even when I can’t see it, you’re working. Even when I can’t feel, it you’re working. You never stop. You never stop working.”
Our little Libby was asleep in the room next door, and she had no idea that mum and dad were about to fulfil that wish of hers. How much more can we trust God?
2 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV) tells us, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so, through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
3. Persist in prayer
Sometimes, not now, doesn’t mean, not ever. God’s delay is not always God’s denial. It can be a matter of wrong timing or a growth opportunity to actually persist and press in.
Some miracles happen in an instant, others take place over a period of time.
This story in Mark 8:22 should encourage us. “They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
Even Jesus had to pray again! Maybe you need to pray again? Maybe you need believe again? Maybe you need to just stay the course and not give up. Or maybe you actually need to surrender your desired outcome and fully place the situation in the hands of Jesus? Maybe you need to let go of what you think God should do and ask Him what will be best for you? Ask Him to reveal His purpose in the middle of the tension. It’s often in places of confusion and and disappointment that God’s sovereignty and goodness is experience in all its fullness. Regardless of how you’re feeling, the best thing you can do is face towards God, not away.
I don’t know what you’re going through friend, but God does.
Keep listening for His voice, trust that He knows better and keep believing for breakthrough. The story’s not over yet, so don’t give up half way through the book. God’s certainly not finished yet.
Article supplied with thanks to Sabrina Peters.
About the Author: Sabrina is a writer, pastor and relationships blogger. She is passionate about Jesus and changing the way people think about God & sex.
Feature image: Photo by Omar Ram on Unsplash
Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.