Dr. John Rosemond, who specializes in parenting issues, once received a letter from the exasperated mother of a three-year-old girl, whom the mom described as “constantly in motion, gets into everything, won’t stay in her bed at night, won’t accept ‘No’ for an answer,” and so on. In the middle of describing this little unsettling child, the mother added, “I know she’s well intentioned.”
Dr. Rosemond wrote back, saying, “Well intentioned? No, your daughter is not well intentioned. She intends to have it her way, she intends to prove she can outlast you, and she intends to prove she runs the show. She is doing what she is doing with bad intention, and you will not be able to discipline her properly until you stop thinking she is innocent and making excuses for her.”
When God Says “No”
Unlike that exasperated mother, our wise God knows how to say “No.” His “No” is always in our best interest, but sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. Even the greatest of biblical characters faced occasional denials to their prayer requests. Moses prayed earnestly to cross the Jordan with the children of Israel, but the Lord said “No” and sent Joshua (Deuteronomy 3:25-28). David prayed for his infant child to live, but the Lord took the child to heaven instead (2 Samuel 12:23). David wanted to build the temple, but the Lord assigned that task to Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:2-6). The apostle Paul prayed repeatedly for healing from his thorn in the flesh, but the Lord refused, saying, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). And, of course, the greatest unanswered prayer in the Bible is the cry of Jesus, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39).
Isn’t “No” An Answer?
When God says “No” we can praise and glorify Him, for by faith we believe He knows best. We should praise Him for saving us from unwise choice, and for keeping us under His gentle discipline. To rebel against God’s denials would damage us internally. Some people become bitter with God when He doesn’t act as they require. But such bitterness leaves us calloused and cold. There’s an interesting verse in the Psalms about the Israelites who insisted on having their own way. Psalm 106:15 says, “And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.”
To insist on our own way betrays a lack of faith in our Lord’s omniscience. It’s an attitude that says: “You don’t know what You’re doing, Lord. I know best, and You are either unwise or uncaring.” But the Lord does know what He’s doing, and it’s wonderful to take His “Yeses” and “Nos” with equal joy, leaving the final choice to Him.
In the nation of India, there was a missionary named Amy Carmichael who became famous for rescuing young Indian girls who had been given over to sexual slavery. One day Amy told of a prayer she had earnestly prayed in childhood. As a child, Amy wanted blue eyes like her mother’s. Amy’s eyes were brown. So one night she prayed earnestly that during the night the Lord would turn her eyes blue, and she went to sleep in simple childlike faith that God would hear and answer. The next morning she studied her eyes in the mirror. At first she was bitterly disappointed, and then a thought came to her. Even though she was simply a young child, this thought came to her: “Isn’t ‘No’ an answer?”
Later, when Amy was risking her life to rescue little girls from temple prostitution, she disguised herself by wrapping herself in Indian dress and sometimes staining her hands brown with coffee. But she couldn’t hide her eyes, and if they had been blue she would have been discovered and probably killed. Her eyes had to be brown.
If you’ve earnestly asked God for something that hasn’t come to pass, praise Him anyway. If God says “No” take it as a “Yes” in the long run. Learn to magnify Him for what His love denies. Learn to rejoice in the fact that “No” is an answer. And whenever we pray, let’s learn to pray as Jesus did—“Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
Dr. Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of
Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
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