What do you do when God says no? When a door that you thought God was opening gets slammed in your face? How do you handle it when all indications seem to be a green light and it looks like God’s will, and then all of a sudden something changes and the light is red and it’s over?
This happens more often than you might think. You’re in a relationship that seems clearly to be of God, you’re close to engagement . . . and then you break up. A loved one is sick, you pray for healing, it looks like God is answering your prayers . . . and then it turns for the worse. There’s a positive pregnancy test after years of praying for a baby . . . and then you miscarry.
Even in smaller things. A vacation is planned . . . and someone gets sick and you can’t go. You get a job you’re excited about . . . and you’re fired before the first month is out. You’re days away from signing for a new house that is exactly what you’d prayed for . . . and then the sale falls through.
Disappointments are a part of life. Not a fun part of life, but nevertheless a part of life. From things that are no big deal in the grand scheme of life, to life-changing events like death, loss and suffering and pain and disappointment will be with us all our life. So what do we do with this?
People far smarter than me have written good books about this. I’m certainly no expert, and honestly haven’t experienced any huge losses. I will probably look back at this post and cringe at the innocent, untested girl I was. I’m living in a season where God has said “no” to some things, but “yes” to many others (post on “What To Do When God Says Yes” coming soon!)
Somehow, though, I think it’s worth sharing a bit of what God’s been teaching me and the lessons I’m learning in the small “no’s”, preparing me for the big “no’s” that likely lie ahead. Here’s what I’m learning:
- When God says no, trust that God is still good. Resist the temptation to think that God has somehow failed you, that He is anything less than perfect and loving and good. God is sovereign, but this world is groaning under the burden of sin. Focus on who you know God to be.
- In the darkness, cling to what God showed you in the light. In loss, it can be easy to forget the good times, to lose sight of God’s faithfulness, to remember when God said yes. God gives us mountaintops to keep us going through the valleys. Remember the mountaintop lessons.
- Practice thankfulness. Even in the worst pain and loss, there are things to be grateful for. Look for them. Focus on them. Choose to be grateful, to see what God is doing, to find the small gifts, perhaps in time to even see the “no” as exactly the best answer God could have given you and be truly grateful.
- Choose community. It can be easy to want to be strong and show no weakness. How many women have never told anyone else about their miscarriage or some other loss, and suffered alone? Share it and don’t let the devil work in the dark. Allow friends to encourage and comfort and support you.
- Learn the lessons that pain and loss teach us. We learn things in the “no’s” of God that we simply can’t learn any other way. In “Hinds’ Feet On High Places” (highly recommended!), Much-Afraid’s companions are “Sorrow & Suffering”. Only in taking their hands was she brought to the high places.
- Choose to go forward in the light God does provide. Sometimes, when a door has been severely closed, it can feel like all the doors are closed. But they’re not. Perhaps you have just enough light to get you through the next minute, hour, or day. Take it. And keep praying for the right open door.
- Don’t allow one “no” to keep you from knocking again. This relationship ended: take the risk of love again and don’t walk in fear. God didn’t answer this prayer for your loved one: keep praying. You lost this baby: still celebrate the next little life God gives you, and allow yourself to feel. And so on.
- Look outward: resist being absorbed in your own pain. This closed door hurts. But people all around you are hurting. You might be surprised how healing it can be to focus on somebody else’s needs. Be self-absorbed, and you’ll just grow stagnant. Pour out, and you’ll be filled.
- Dig deep into Scripture and time with God. When you can’t see God in the dark, when lies are swirling in your mind, when life just hurts, dig into Scripture and see who God really is. Let His Word wash over you and fill you with truth. Spend time with God, listening, praying, and abiding in Him.
- Focus on Jesus and eternity. Most importantly, keep your eyes focused on Jesus. Don’t pull away from your relationship with Him, press in. Keep an eternal perspective in the forefront of your mind. Worship Him, and Him alone. He is worthy. And you will be transformed through this “no”.