Sometimes our well-intentioned hearts lead us astray. We want a job, a relationship, an acceptance letter that perhaps would not be the best for us or for our relationship with the Father, and He says no. Sometimes we can see the reason immediately, sometimes a way’s down the road when something else works out. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21). There are times we can accept, understand, and move on.
But other times, life strikes us with blows that leave us breathless and grasping for logic. We think our well-laid and prayed plans were in God’s will, and we can’t wrap our minds around God’s no. Years pass, and we still can’t see the reason.
Here’s a personal story – my dad was a healthy and holy man who unexpectedly had a heart attack and, consequently, extensive brain damage. Thousands of people were praying for his healing and recovery for the 3 weeks he spent in the hospital, but the Lord said “no,” and my dad passed away.
David prayed for his son conceived in adultery to be spared, but he wasn’t (2 Samuel 12:14-31).
Moses wanted to enter the promised land, but he didn’t (Number 27:12-13).
Job asked for the reason for losing his family, belongings, health, and friends, but he never got it.
Jesus asked to be spared from the cross, but he wasn’t (Matthew 26:39).
Some of these “no’s” were consequences of sin, some of the losses were restored, some of the reasons were understood with time. Two of my favorite summaries of suffering are found in the Old Testament. The first is written by the prophet Habakkuk at the end of his writings about the woes of exiled Israel. He redeems a pretty whiny message with these words of praise:
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
We may never understand sufferings or tragedies this side of heaven, but we should choose to praise and rejoice in God. I may pray and trust and follow with all my might, but the Lord still says no. I trust in God’s ability and willingness to say yes, as well as His providence in saying no.
The Lord may answer my requests with yes, my questions with logic, my wondering with reasons.
But if not, He is still good. (Daniel 3:18)