Me and God and a word called No.

There is a book I recommend to every father: The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. It is a fascinating read with many takeaways – the most important of which is a list of warning signs we can look for when we find ourselves confronted with odd or potentially dangerous behavior from another. One of the warning signs of criminal behavior is a person’s inability to accept “No” for an answer. No is a valid response. In a dating situation or when a stranger offers unwanted help, the normal person will back off when told no. But a deviant mind seeks ways around the word and will not accept it.

No is a valid response to a question. We teach our children that truth and even when difficult, we have learned to accept it ourselves.

No is also a valid response to a prayer.

The Bible teaches three answers to prayer: Yes, No, and Wait.

Yes is easy. When we pray and receive what we desire there comes a satisfying confirmation of the love of our heavenly father.

No and Wait can be very hard but are valid answers nonetheless.

I believe that God always answers every prayer. My finite mind cannot grasp the logistics involved in this system, but the Bible teaches it and I accept it. While he answers prayer, he often does not always offer an explanation. Nor does he need to. He is God.

When a father tells his child no, he usually follows with an explanation for his decision: “No, you can’t eat that cricket because it will spoil your dinner.”

The child may or may not be satisfied, but God is not bound by our need of a reason. In the height of human arrogance, we demand all yes’s or a reasonable explanation for the wounding no’s. But he is God. He didn’t promise that and doesn’t owe it to us. If we expect yes to every prayer, we are immature fools who serves a genie in a bottle, not God. No’s test our faith – especially when it comes in a desperate situation and without a trace as to why.

C.S. Lewis said, “For prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted.”

On Friday, February 13, 2015, I woke up early and went down to my basement. I got down on my knees and that didn’t feel like enough so I got down on my face and cried out, “God, heal my baby.” With my daughter’s life ebbing away in the room above me, I had faith. I truly believed with everything in my heart that even then, God would raise her up cancer-free and it would be a miracle. And she would walk out of that room and be a living testimony of His power and his mercy to this dying world.

Twelve hours later, I watched her take her last breath. I carried her lifeless body out of my house. To all of my prayers and the thousands prayed for her by others, God said no. I will never know why. I can speculate, but I cannot know. My inability to know that answer doesn’t make him any less God. Further, it doesn’t mean he didn’t answer my prayer – he just didn’t give me the answer I wanted.

It would require very little courage or faith to follow a formulaic God doling out fortune cookies with complete instructions and positive affirmation. But God is not an if/then proposition. He never said, “If you pray, I will grant.”

When I asked, God said no which leaves me two choices:

I can walk away from my faith or I can learn to live with this God who says no.

Either way, God is still God. He hasn’t changed. Have I? Has my faith?

 

Faith is not built by the proliferation of yes’s we accumulate. Rather, faith is molded in the fiery ashes of the painful no’s we’ve received.

 

I choose to stay. Some might call that foolish, but it is my choice and mine alone. It is a daily slog through the valley of why, but I still believe. I still believe. While I do not understand his will and in this case, I do not like it, I acknowledge that he is God and I am not. He owes me no explanation.

But… God and me – our relationship is different now. I tend to feel him less and see evidence of him more and in complete candor, we sometimes aren’t on speaking terms. That might make sense to no one, but it’s where I am. It’s where we are. Regardless of how I feel… he is God and I am me and that’s enough.

Me and God – we’re working through this together.

18 thoughts on “Me and God and a word called No.

  1. First things first – hugs! I’ve been in a somewhat similar scenario with God. I prayed, I cried, I pleaded, I begged but the request was not answered and in turn I – like a petulant teenager – stormed off in a huff and refused to have anything to do with God for some years. I’ve become a semi-prodigal daughter since. Not totally back home but sitting on the front porch and working things out.

  2. To often we are like children begging our parents for a toy we must have now and can’t live without and their answer was “no.” The whole while they had already purchased it and in their logic the one or two months we would have to wait were but a mere blink of an eye in a lifetime. They knew that when we unwrapped our gift on Christmas Day all the despair and disappointment would be replaced with joy and excitement! Thank you for sharing your story and your feelings. God Bless and Always Believe <

  3. i think there are struggles on all sides here. we can accept or not and change things or not. some situations do not offer us the choice, but are chosen for us. it is what we do after that makes all the difference moving ahead.

  4. I have said the exact words in your last two paragraphs for almost five years now. My son, who spent 13 months in two children’s hospitals, died Feb. 21, 2014. It is my faith that got me through those months, and truely believe, he too, with God’s mercy, would come through. We were just facing a lifetime of “new normal”. I am not angry with God, but yes our relationship has change. I am in awe at you ability to so so clearly express thoughts that seem to be undescribable. Thank you.

  5. Hi Mark, I so wish I could write like you, write my feelings, but I can’t. It’s like I’m stuck in a rut, even after 9 yrs. My prayers weren’t answered either. I pleaded with God to heal my husband, my very best friend! God had other plans and to this day, I still don’t understand. I lost all faith. I’ve been sitting on that front porch ever since, working things out. My relationship with God is a process in the works. I see improvements, but I feel, I still have a ways to go. Grief is a process. Everyone handles grief differently and there is no time frame for one to “have to stop” grieving. One’s world gets completely turned upside down with a loss of a loved one. The world is no longer how it once was. I am still seeking that “new” norm, whatever that is. Life does go on, just so differently. Blessings to you and have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Again, I love how you can put your feelings into such wonderful words!

    1. I understand that rut. Everyone’s grief is so different, you are right. Since we loved, I don’t think we will ever stop grieving. But hopefully some of the pain lessens. I hope we both continue to work on our relationship with God. I feel like he is still pursuing me. Like you said, it is a work in progress. Blessings to you.

  6. I’ve learned to draw strength and faith from the people in my life rather than God, Mark.
    I acknowledge God’s presence in the world but I know He stays out of things, and maybe that’s for the best.
    This is our world and these are our lives, what we make of them is up to us.

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