What If God Says No?

When I was a kid, I learned very quickly that every good Christian “takes everything to God in prayer.” Having trouble with a friend? Pray about it. Worried about your finances? Just pray about it. Want to get a new job/house/car? Let’s hope you prayed about it first.

Now listen, prayer is powerful and important. But as I got older, I realized I was misguided in my prayers. You see, when I “took everything to God in prayer,” what I really meant was I had something I wanted God to do, and I was asking Him to do it with the expectation that He would say yes. But, thankfully, that’s not how God operates. He doesn’t say yes to everything, even the things we really want from Him. Sometimes the door we’re begging Him to open is supposed to stay closed.

Coming to that realization was quite the journey. Learning that God sometimes (let’s be honest, oftentimes) says no to the things I was asking for was not an easy pill to swallow. It left me hurt, confused and angry most times. There was even a period when I was mad at God for denying my most desperate prayers. I wasn’t sure what to do with that anger, until a trusted mentor showed me that the best way to get past a hangup or negative feeling about God is to take off the gloves and get into it with Him.

Now listen, before someone gets called a Pharisee, I have come to my conclusion that we can battle with God because of the following two verses:

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18)

“About three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’)” (Matthew 27:46).

Here’s what I take from those, and about the zillion other Google-searchable verses on having less than positive feelings toward God:

1. God gets you.

2. He can handle your doubt.

Yes, He can. Yet, when we think about being that kind of honest with God, we often shy away. Some set of inherited values kicks in and it feels improper, impolite or disobedient. And to an extreme, it can be. But don’t let that value system override the larger truth: God wants to know you, all of you—the good, the bad, the shameful, the frustrated, the joyful, the sorrowful.

We may view God as some patriarchal boss, which is just not the character of God. He’s endlessly dimensional and wants you, where you’re at, right now. My pastor used to say, “We cannot meet God where we wish we were. We either cry out to Him from the place we find ourselves or we will not cry out at all.”

That’s it — be where you are and cry out to God from a real place of vulnerability and honesty. It helps, I know.

There was a moment in my life when I was in the middle of praying for the zillionth time that a difficult situation would be different and that God would just show up. And then, one day, I kind of snapped internally and said, “screw this.” I fell silent for a long time because I just couldn’t take the non-answer anymore. I couldn’t take the lack of bigger picture, and I couldn’t take the option of “no.” Like you, I just lost the steam to keep praying.

Enter, God.

Surprisingly, during my time of giving full vent to my anger and lashing out at God, my heart started to heal and soften. Things weren’t OK, but I calmed down, and eventually, I had enough energy to start praying, reading the Bible, talking to friends and hoping again. This was because God knew I had a broken heart and was out of my mind. What’s more, God cared for me even as I rejected Him.

Now listen, our situations are likely not a perfect parallel. I can’t imagine the sadness/stress/worry you feel. But I do get the idea of being so afraid that God will give another “no,” or another bout of silence, that you just stop asking.

I would fight against that as hard as you can, and I’d bring that before God. Seriously, give it to Him: “Where are you, God?” “Am I not asking the right thing?” “I am so mad at you!” “Why have you forsaken me?” God has heard these things before, and He’s able to hear them from you.

The dangerous part is, of course, that our anger and honesty can — when unchecked — turn into desertion. To guard against that, I’d make sure that even if your head and heart is in the wrong place, your body is doing the right things. Things like reading, community, mentorship, etc. Then, once you’ve fortified your life and are ready to do it, I’d give full vent to your anger and not treat God as though He can’t handle your disappointment in Him.

Like any relationship, the darkest and most honest times often lead to deeper levels of love and trust—because someone was willing to go there and be real when it wasn’t easy.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Trial comes first. It has to. But the difficulty will produce deeper levels of trust and intimacy if you keep holding on and continue to let God into the pain.

Title: What If God Says No?
URL: https://relevantmagazine.com/faith/what-if-god-says-no/
Source: REL ::: RELEVANT
Source URL: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/rss/relevantmagazine.xml
Date: May 30, 2024 at 06:29PM
Feedly Board(s): Religion