As a parent, I have learned that small children, more often than not, will ask for things that are not best for them. They know what they want, and they are certain they have justifiable grounds to be granted their petitions. However, I know better than they, and what they are asking will do more harm than good. So, my desire for their best compels me to say “no” to their requests, even though I know disappointment is sure to follow (and it always hurts to see my children disappointed). Ironically, compared to God’s wisdom, mine is less than a little child’s.
Carrie and I, and some very close friends, have been praying about something for a couple of months. Yesterday I received a definitive answer; God said “no”, and that was not the answer we hoped to hear. We knew he would grant our request; it would be so good for our family, our ability to help others, and our lives in general. As I prayed about this, I often (like my children) gave God all the reasons he should answer in the affirmative. But God’s desire for our best compelled him to say “no”.
I wish I could see the big picture. I wish I knew why God did not grant our request, because even now I can’t comprehend why he didn’t. Nonetheless, I am certain that God is good, and he sees a bigger picture that he may or may not reveal to me in this life. I wish I knew why God says “yes” to some and “no” to others. Why do we read in Acts 12 that God allowed James to be killed and Peter freed? Was Peter a “better” Christian more deserving of God’s favor? Of course not.
When Paul tells us about his thorn in the flesh in 2 Corinthians 12, we sense that he truly believed the removal of that thorn would make him more useful to God. He could see no reason that God would not grant his request that he “pleaded” with the Lord to remove. Yet, God told him he would not remove the thorn because his “power is made perfect in weakness.”
So, how do we handle the answer we dreaded?
Last night Carrie and I grieved. We sat at the dining room table and wept. We grieved the loss of something we never possessed but intensely hoped for. It is okay, and good, and even healing to grieve and weep and mourn your losses and disappointments.
We now must trust that God’s plan is greater than ours (which is not hard to believe, but it is so difficult to accept). We know that God loves us and longs for our best, but it is not always easy to understand why he denies our requests.
Ask God how to use this for good
After Paul was denied his request of the removal of his thorn, God gave him insight into how he could use it for good. To ask this question is difficult because it requires us to accept the “no.” Often, when I tell my children no, they do what we all do -they fight and reason and refuse to accept the answer, but eventually, they capitulate. The reason we hate to ask God this question is because it feels like quitting. It feels like we are giving up on something we know would be good for us. Yet, it isn’t giving up; it’s giving in to a greater yes. It’s giving in to a God who loves us beyond our comprehension, who has a plan that far exceeds the plans we had for ourselves.
Are you at this place in your life? Has God recently denied your request? I know the pain of being told “no” can seem unbearable, and I pray you will find that God’s grace is sufficient in this painful time. If you feel compelled, please share this post and share your thoughts. God bless you in your journey of growth.