My husband had been unemployed about three months when he was called for a third interview in the city. This was a dream job for him, working in the financial district, for one of the world’s premier banks. He came home from the hour commute from the city uplifted and hopeful. They had clearly liked him.
This made the phone call the following day more difficult to accept. The bank had decided to go with the other candidate. Steve was downtrodden. Sure, he had another offer on the table for a pharmaceutic closer to home, and he took that job. But he still spoke of his disappointment and revisited the interview in his mind, repeatedly. This was in April 2001.
I was home with four children that September day, plowing into the new homeschool year, my three month old in my arms as I checked my morning email. We did not have cable television, and a video played in the family room for my toddler. An email post told of a plane flying into the first of the twin towers. I put on the New York City news station that was auto programmed on the radio.
As I absorbed the reality of the regional onslaught, a phone call to Steve reassured me that he was fine and unaffected. I became desperate to see what was going on. Online news sites only contained still photos and were inadequate. The same few images front-paged every news website. I gathered the kids and went to the town library where a television showed the news. It was as we watched the towers fall that it occurred to me that my husband had just been denied a job exactly where the wreckage fell.
Back then, when Steve’s hopes were high and focused in one direction, God knew.
That was fifteen years ago. Steve has since worked in the city and it lost its charm in a relatively short time. He had an interview in Manhattan yesterday and came home, praising God that he had other contracting job possibilities. Given an offer for that same job today, he would likely make different decisions, because he knows now what God knew then. Back then, when Steve’s hopes were high and focused in one direction, God knew.
God also knew the time that we were delighted about a home that we were scheduled to close on the next day. When the buyer backed out of the purchase of our current home, we had to move our every belonging back from storage into our emptied house. We were sure that the enemy had won the battle in what had already been a difficult house selling process. But he hadn’t. When we eventually sold our house, again, the real estate market was in a downfall, and our home today is more spacious and lovelier and more wonderful than the one that God seemed to be taking away from us.
He also knew as we prayed so many prayers over the years. He knew those many times when He said “yes,” knowing that what we were asking for was far from the best for us, when we pushed and pleaded like my kids do when we say “no.” As we begged and tried to convince God in prayer that what we wanted was what should be, He, in His amazing love, gave us what we wanted. That answered prayer sometimes led to difficulties beyond our understanding of future situations. He respected and honored our desires, knowing that He would have to help us pick up the pieces. But He wants us to learn and grow and gives us choices.
God respected and honored our desires, knowing that He would have to help us pick up the pieces.
Because He is gracious and loves us unfailingly, our Heavenly Father comforted us as we struggled with our choices. In His grace, He helped us through pain that we had unknowingly asked for. Even when we then blamed Him and even complained, He cared and turned things around into something good. Romans 8:28 talks about this;
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Many times, situations are beyond our control. But there are times when we literally “asked for it.” We ask for a big bite, and then there is too much to chew. Or people or situations change, and we are surprised. Nonetheless, God works it out and redirects us to get back on the path of His plan and purposes for us. He works for good to those who love him. Romans 2:4 talks about this kindness, and how He is constantly concerned that we are in right relationship with Him;
“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
The more we submit to God and return His love, the better we hear His voice. We hear people better when we are in relationship with them. We are then more in tune when God warns us to avoid landmines or pitfalls. Our desire to work with Him increases. Our prayers become more submissive, because we have learned that, no matter how things seem and how much we think we know, He loves us and His will is the best outcome. Always.
God says “no” in may ways, and sometimes He talks louder than other times. Many years ago, I sat in a dorm room in New England, praying about my co-leader of a campus Bible Study that was going well. He was tall, handsome, blonde, blue eyes and all. He was an accomplished athlete, was sweet and sincere and had recently become a Christian. He was on fire for God. His enthusiasm for evangelism and lost souls paired well with my zeal for Bible study, teaching and discipleship.
My assumption had been that mutual interest meant a green light. If God did not want this to happen, He would stop it.
That evening, I had realized that mutual romantic interest was a possibility. My assumption had been that mutual interest meant a green light. If God did not want this to happen, He would stop it. He had done so over and over again in my teen years. I remember sitting at my desk, facing the wall, which was a montage of photos, schedules and quotes, and generously offering God the option to stop things from moving forward. That seemed mature to me. Here I was, serving the Lord in this great relationship. There was fruit. Imagine what this young man and I could do together, for God!
Thinking that this was a no-brainer, of course God called us together, I decided to put it out there, to cover all bases. I said, out loud, “God, is Jack the man that you have for me?”
“No.” An audible voice filled the room and echoed in my mind as I recovered from the shock of hearing God speak. The word was engraved in my heart and mind as though it had been etched in stone. I know now why God did this. I absolutely needed a “no” that was so supernatural that I could not convince myself that I had misheard. In the months that followed, Jack’s attentions increased as I withdrew. Those were hard months. But God could not have been more clear and I wanted what God wanted. Now, decades later, I look back and see what God had for me. Jack may have been a good guy, but he was not God’s best for me. I wonder what would never have happened, had I not heeded His voice.
I wonder what would never have happened, had I not heeded His voice.
Other times, most times, in fact, God says “no” in more subtle ways. As we grown closer to the Lord, we hear Him better. John 10:27 reassures us that we will hear him, when we tune our ears to hear him; “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
What His sheep know is that God says “yes!” a lot more than He says “no.” He has good things for His sheep! Luke 11:11-13 is a wonderful passage that shows us God’s heart;
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
When we understand that God is truly a good father, and that His “no” is because He has something better for us, our disappointment dissipates. The enemy would like us to kick and scream. The enemy wants our disappointment to become bitterness and anger toward God. In actuality, our loving Father wants to hold us until we accept that our desires will still be realized, but in another time and way. Sometimes He is saying “wait,” not “no.” If it is a matter of waiting longer, He promises to hold us as we wait. He wants to turn our disappointment to hope, not hopelessness.
When God says “no” and disappointment overwhelms you, remember Romans 5:5; “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” How wonderful that we have a Father who watches our steps and does not leave us to our own, limited, devices. May He overwhelm you with hope and excitement for all of the wonderful things that His perfect will promises you!