There have been many time I’ve both heard and said, “all in God’s time.” We often wait (patiently or not) for God to answer our prayers, but what if He already answered? What if we’re waiting on something that’s already happened? What if His answer is no? Can we recognize and accept that? Can we move on?
It’s terribly uncertain for me in many situations to wonder if God’s asking me to be patient and wait or if He’s already said no and I need to move on. Am I too stubborn and wait too long? I know the answer to that - I’m very stubborn! But I’ve wondered a few times, what if His answer is no?
No one wants to suffer or see anyone else suffer. If you’re like me, you find yourself justifying suffering with everything from the actions of some, to the distance we’ve placed between God and ourselves as a race, and the human condition. Logic sounds great, until it doesn’t. Then it’s just frustrating, leaving us with questions, fear, and uncertainty, sometimes even anger. We might throw all that anger at God, which is okay because He can take it, but it gets us nowhere.
There are books addressing why bad things happen to good people and Kirk Cameron even made a movie about it. St. Paul said that we suffer so that we might help others through their suffering. It's in 2 Corinthians 1:6 if you want to read that here.
I could drone on about the sufferings of mankind, but maybe your prayer isn’t so dramatic that you’re literally ‘suffering’ by not getting what you prayer for. When I was turning 30, I was living with my parents in the basement, in one bedroom, with my husband and two toddlers. This was mentally very hard for me. I was praying to the point of tears to get a house. Don’t get me wrong, we were working our butts off trying to secure finances and find a house we could afford that didn’t mean moving out of state. I kept praying to stay in the same town or in certain neighboring towns. I. Kept. Praying. All the while, I’m thinking, ‘This is on God’s time, not mine.’ I tried to be patient for Him to give me what I prayed for.
I wasn’t wrong there, but I wasn’t right either. He had answered my prayers many times. I’d pray for a certain house or neighborhood and He’d been saying, “No, I have something better.” I’d prayer for a certain town or certain details and He’d been saying, “No, I have other plans for you.” It’s not that I wasn’t trying to listen to Him, but I hadn’t considered that He was saying No to those things. I kept thinking He was being silent and I just needed to keep praying and wait.
I was right about both; I needed to keep praying and I needed to wait, but I needed to change my prayer. I started praying, “Lord, place us where You want us and help us to bend to Your Will.” Now, He’d of course been planning this all along, but the timing was perfect. We got a loan with assistance and found an affordable house fit for our little family in a neighborhood we love and central to all the things we’d hoped for, even the things we didn’t know we’d need. God is awesome!
It’s a quaint story and not so dramatic as one some dear loved ones of mine are experiencing. I cannot tell another person’s story, but I can say that sometimes you may pray so hard over things that you feel you must, but if God’s answer is no, are you ready to trust His Will? Will you blame a lack of faith or will you realize that sometimes, though terribly hard, greater faith is allowing it to rain and to know that He will get you through it? Greater faith is not giving up (and it can be hard to know the difference!) but it is throwing yourself at His feet and crying out, “Take all of me, Lord, because You know best!”
There is a book I love to read my children called The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. (There’s an adult version and a children’s version.) It’s about praying bold prayers and praying with great faith. I realize that all my statements above seem to oppose it; they do not. I assure you, I try to pray those bold prayers, circles and all, every day. One of my deepest prayers, on which I literally walked circles for weeks, is being answered in two ways: Yes and no. I’m still having a hard time seeing the yes, but I know it’s there, just not how I had hoped. I can clearly see the no, but I’ve been trying to not see it through eyes of discouragement. When the ‘no’ becomes clear, you need to look beyond. God will still meet your needs, He will still provide for you, but sometimes, in order to do so, He will need to say no to your specific demands. Remember, He will honor the dreams He gave you, so don’t stop praying for them!
Sometimes I think I’ve done all He’s asked and I’m still left heartbroken, maybe even shattered, wondering if I got it wrong. My confidence has been shot and my spirit wilted. He’s lifted me from those places, but I remember them well. He’s told me I haven’t always been wrong, but I may not realize why He’s asked me to do those things. I saw my plans and thought I saw His too, but I didn’t really. Hillary Scott sings it best with Thy Will. I highly recommend hearing her song here. If you like that, then you’ll like Mandisa’s song, Where You Begin, which also talks about having faith and trying to hear God’s Will.
This was a long one for me, and there’s so much more I could say, but I’ll leave you with this: When I was a child, my family was moving to a new house. I prayed for rocks to climb, a pond to play in, trees to climb, and I got it all, but not how I wanted it. I had a house in mind, in fact, but we landed next to a rocky swamp, across from trees, with a tiny puddle of a pond. We weren’t able to put up our swimming pool because of the property rules and such and my parents regretted their decision a couple years later. They stayed there, however, and I made new friends. One friend got me hooked on photography in high school. This took me to the college I went to. There, I met another friend that got me interested in a Christian festival. I ended up going to it alone and there I met my husband. Crazy but true. God’s "no" was better than I thought.