Any time you explore the topic of prayer, eventually you come face to face with a time when God says “no”. When that happens, if you are not careful, you can quickly find yourself in a theological quagmire.
Through the centuries this issue has made some followers walk away, has made skeptics feel justified, and the rest of us….well, feel uncomfortable.
Quickly we get dragged down the rabbit hole of “why”. I’m telling you now, there are some things you will never be able to reconcile. Things like why a child dies instead of being healed, or why, even with fasting and prayer, your marriage still falls apart. To try to answer “why” will simply frustrate you, and hearing platitudes like “God has a plan” or “There must be a purpose”, do little more than drive a wedge between your grieving heart and God.
For a few minutes, set aside your desire to understand, why, and instead, think about what you can learn through the experience. Now I can’t begin to tell you what your lesson from “No” is, but I invite you to look over the shoulder of my experience and let me share what I learned when God gave me the biggest “no” of my life.
I met my husband in Bible college. When I graduated, we married and moved back home to start our life and our family. That first year together was everything a young couple could ask for. We threw ourselves into youth group, our careers, and family. Life was good.
In those early years, we learned how God would deal with us the rest of our lives. When we had a decision to make, we would pray about it, asking God to either open or close the door of opportunity according to His will. That’s exactly what He did! Time after time He demonstrated His faithfulness, and we became quite adept at recognizing His direction.
We had four young nephews, and we adored them! We dreamed of a house full of boys or girls, at least 3, maybe even 4. Those first few years passed by, but no children.
In year five I talked with my doctor. We began testing to see why we weren’t getting pregnant. The tests all said nothing was wrong. There was “no reason” why I shouldn’t be able to conceive. Another year went by childless. My husband went through tests with the same results, “everything was working correctly”. There was a lot of prayer, but no children, only closed doors.
Once we suspected we weren’t going to have children of our own, we started to explore adoption… I can’t express how deeply I admire those who welcome children into their home and raise them as their very own. It’s a reflection of how God deals with us, adopting us as His very own sons and daughters.
I’ve always had one great fear, though…that we would adopt a child who would later feel we weren’t enough and would go looking for his or her birth parents. In fact, as I prayed I told God about my fear. We asked Him to open or close the door for us to build our family through adoption.
Repeatedly the door was closed. Often like this:
I worked for a number of years as bank teller. One year I was assigned to a branch where a young woman (we’ll call her Stephanie) worked. As I came to know her, I learned Stephanie was adopted. My husband and I were once again beginning the process to adopt, and I considered Stephanie’s arrival a confirmation we were moving in the right direction.
I spent many slow afternoons asking Stephanie about her relationship with her adoptive parents, and sharing my fears that my child would feel the need to go searching for birth parents. Stephanie assured me that no matter what happened, her adoptive mom would always be her mom. She was saying all the right things! I was convinced God was saying “yes”. It was finally time.
It was a Friday in October when Stephanie arrived in the office and announced, “I found my REAL mom!” and over the next few weeks, as the holiday’s approached, she lived out all my fears. The door shut.
The years passed and I continued to pray for children. However, door after door has closed, always in different ways, always shut tight.
Three years ago I accepted the reality that even though God has given me blessing after blessing over the years, what we wanted most is a “no”. Why? I have no idea. We haven’t done anything noble or spiritual with the experience. We haven’t been unhappy…just, a little empty.
Recently the Spirit tapped me on the heart and asked me a life-changing question.
“Why do you serve God? Is it because He gives you what you want? Or do you serve Him because He deserves your worship as the creator and sustainer of the universe?”
I’ve wrestled with this question for a while now, examining why I serve God. Is it because He does what I want? Is it because I live this charmed life and He gives me good things? Am I like my cat who hangs around for the tuna treats, or do I serve and worship God because of who HE is? You see, He deserves respect, honor, and praise from a creature He made.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
So that’s my 33-year lesson. Maybe I’m a slow learner. My friends, you are not likely to find peace if you are looking for “why” – but after the pain fades, look for the lesson. He’s a gentle, patient teacher.
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Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™