Life + Culture

When God Says “No”

When God Says “No”

I will never forget the moment when I knew God had answered “no” to something I really wanted.

He seemed to whisper this answer into my heart to help me realize I had spent too much time holding onto something I was not meant to have. After months of presenting my request, he gently told me to let it go.

At first, I didn’t realize his plans were better than my own. Moments of heartache and (seemingly) empty hands, left me wondering why he would take away this opportunity I desired so much. I wrongfully believed that if he wouldn’t give me what I wanted, he must not have understood how important it was to me. It seemed like he was needlessly withholding, not giving abundantly like I thought he should.

Permission to Grieve

When we are forced to let go of something we really long for — whether it’s taken away, or it seems it will never be given — grief is a natural response. The weight of disappointment is crushing. It can be overwhelming and take time to process.

It’s not wrong to experience disappointment when life does not unfold the way we hope. If we do not give ourselves permission to grieve, we inadvertently believe that God is more concerned with us immediately feeling better, rather than working through the hurt to bring real transformation to our heart. We lose sight of the invitation he has given us to place our struggles at his feet.

He is not afraid of the pain we feel. His sovereignty is not dependent on our emotions. He will not try to invalidate our hurt with quick and temporary fixes. We are free to express a sense of lack and sorrow in the moment. He lets us feel the void so that he might satisfy us with himself. He wants to draw near.

Finding His Love in Our Lament

The panic I felt over being led in a different direction gave a clear picture of the state of my heart. I was more concerned with not getting what I wanted than seeing where God wanted me.

Disappointment often reveals what captures our affections. Even though the disappointment is not always wrong, it does give us a gauge that shows us where we have invested our hope. Lamenting through our discontentment forces us to carry those desires back to God — even if just to question why he hasn’t given these things to us. It sheds light on the idols we have created in our lives. Through the grief, we dig up our biggest frustrations and unleash our rawest emotions. Grief graciously draws us in to wrestle with God in every wound and disappointment.

The purpose of lament is not merely to vent our distress (which leaves us in despair), but to bring our attention back to God’s promises and the hope we have in Christ. He promises that he hears us when we call (Matthew 7:7). He promises to be near to us (Psalm 34:18). He promises to be faithful (Deuteronomy 31:6). He promises that this hurt will end (Revelation 21:4). He promises that when we seek him, he will transform our hearts to desire more of him (Psalm 37:4). He will not leave us in the misery of our disappointment, because he has not finished the work he started in us (Philippians 1:6). He will assure us of his love as we invite him into the struggle we feel.

His Best Can Be Painful

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

Redirection forces something out of our hands we had hoped to keep. Through that, we begin to realize God’s plan for our life does not equate to the easy or comfortable road; but he is working all things together, even this disappointed, for our good (Romans 8:28).

God always has our ultimate good in mind, which means he will pry the idols from our hands. He does this not because he is cruel or depriving us. He knows better than we do, and his “no” is always merciful, even when it hurts. He is for us, fighting against what will keep us from him (Romans 8:31). He knows our hearts can only be truly satisfied with himself (John 4:14). He will not tolerate being second in our lives, because he wants us to have something so much better than what the world can offer.

When God takes something away, he creates space in our lives to fill us with more of him and his blessings. That is the greatest gift of all. It may not feel like it in the moments where we are forced to reconcile disappointment, but he wants to help us understand it is true. He wants us to experience for ourselves — to taste and see, and know that he is good (Psalm 34:8).

Disappointment may be part of living in this world, as we struggle to let go of our earthly desires and open our hearts to receive the good things God wants to give us. But if we are in Christ, our struggle with disappointment is only temporary. The promises of God, and the joy we experience as we realize them, are eternal.

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