Thursday, June 18, 2009

When God Said "No"

No one likes to be told "no." Whether it's for a fleeting pleasure or a holy desire, "no" isn't typically the answer we like to hear. At least I don't... and I hope I'm not alone here :)

I think one of the things that has been difficult to process is the fact that while God said "yes" to many of our prayers concerning Isaac, he said "no" to one of the biggest ones of all.

You see, we prayed for Isaac's cystic hygroma to shrink... and it did. We prayed that we would be able to hold him while he was still alive... and we were. We prayed that he wouldn't be in pain... and he never appeared to be. I even prayed that he would be born with hair so that I could have a lock (or several) of it... and he was.

But our biggest prayer of all... that Isaac would be healed on this side of heaven... well, God said no. Ultimately, I know that Isaac is healed, that he has been saved, and that he is perfect, full, and whole in the presence of our Father. But he didn't get to be here with us for a while first... and that was the deepest cry of our hearts.

Spencer and I have talked a lot about how all over scripture there are examples where people are asking to be healed, and the answer was "yes." The blind man who could see; the leper; the hemorrhaging woman... the list goes on. And so there has felt like there's been this disconnect, and it all has felt sort of arbitrary... who is told "yes" and who is told "no." Truthfully, it all feels a little unfair.

This past Sunday we were sitting in church and our pastor was preaching the second sermon in a series entitled "God Rules." He has been talking about the sovereignty of God, and at this one point in the sermon very passionately proclaimed, "God has never dealt with you unjustly." At first, everything in me wanted to jump up and say, "Oh yeah?!?!" But I obviously didn't and I was intrigued. As I continued to listen, what came to mind was a conversation we had with some good friends that previous Friday night.

We were talking with them about how it is hard to find an example in scripture where God said "no." There just don't seem to be that many. And through this conversation two examples came to mind.

The first was Paul... being tormented by a thorn in the flesh. 2 Corinthians 12:8 says that Paul asked three times for it to be taken away. And God said no. Here's what the Lord said to him instead in verse 9... "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Even more profoundly than Paul is Jesus. In the garden of Gethsemane, he asked the Father... "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39) We learn later in the rest of Matthew 26 and 27 that God's answer was no. Because Jesus did go to the cross.

He went to the cross for you... for me... for Isaac... for Duncan, Will, Blake, Ethan, Vivian, Anne Marie, Brooks, Maxson, Nathan, Lucas, Matthew,Faith, Grace, Thomas, Pearl, Christian, Dylan, Katherine, Audrey, Luke, Carleigh, Felicity, and so many other precious little ones who left their moms' and dads' arms much sooner than any of us would have liked.

As I walked out of church, I thought... What if God hadn't said "no" when Jesus prayed?

What if Jesus hadn't bore the weight of our sin on the cross? Where would we be? What redemption would there be in the loss of these little ones? In God's goodness and grace His answer was "no."

And so while what happened with Isaac feels unjust (among other things)... it ultimately isn't. Jerry Sitser in A Grace Disguised (yes, I am still working on this book!) puts it this way:

Our feelings do not determine what is real, though the feelings themselves are real. The feeling self is not the center of reality. God is the center of reality. To surrender to God, however contrary to our emotions, will lead to liberation from self and will open us to a world that is much bigger and much grander than we are.

Thank goodness. Thank goodness it is all bigger than me and bigger than this. If it wasn't, where would the redemption be? Where would the purpose be? Thank goodness that God's vision is so much bigger than mine... even when and even tough I may not understand it. Thank goodness that He is sovereign over all of it, even when it hurts and doesn't seem to make any sense.

So in those times of weakness, of hurt, and of suffering, I cling to what the Lord said to Paul... My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness.

I miss Isaac terribly; but there is so much beauty in the way that the Lord's grace has carried us each step of the way.

It is the prayer of my heart that if you are hurting and you are suffering that you'd find rest in knowing that His grace is sufficient.


Unknown said...

Oh Stacy, what a wonderful post! Thank you! God's grace is sufficient and I pray that I always no that no matter what trials in life come my way. I'm so glad God answered many of your prayers and I wish so much He would've granted you the most important one. If anybody knows how we feel, it is Jesus for His burden was the heaviest by far. And thank you for mentioning my Carleigh. Such a little thing but it meant so much.

April said...

What a beautifully written post. I completely understand how feeling unjust seems to only way when you have suffered great loss. But I am glad to you have found and shared with us the truth as it is written in the Bible. I hope the truth as you have stated it helps to lessen other's grief.

Gina said...

Thank you Stacy for this amazing post. We talked about something very simlar to it last night at our Empty Cradle group and even some of the same scriptures you used in your post were mentioned last night. There is a scripture that was used last night that I wish had had written down so I could go back to it, but I forgot to. I've been on a mission to find it a few times today but have failed. It tied into this very nicely. It helps to read something like this when sometimes I still have so many qestions of "why us?" "why my baby?" Thank you again.

Sonya said...

Thank you Stacy. You are right, God's grace is sufficient and he will carry us through all of the hard times. Kind of reminds me of the footprints in the sand poem.

The Barron Family said...

Every post you write is so inspiring. Thank you. I think of you and Issac often.

Kelly @ Sufficient Grace Ministries said...

Amazing...heart-wrenching post FULL of His truth. His grace is always sufficient, sweet you well know...for He carries you daily with His grace. And it shines through every word you write. Thank you so much for mentioning my Faith, Grace, and Thomas. Even twelve years later, it touches my heart to hear/read their names. You are so beautiful to me, dear friend. Much love to you...

Devon said...

so, so beautiful. tears in my eyes to know that HIS grace is sufficient...and while we miss our sons terribly, they are perfect. and because of his perfect love we will see our sons again...

love you sweet friend. you challenge me and walk with me with some grace and i thank god for you!

Trish said...

Tears...that post had the words I needed to hear tonight, thank you. His grace is so beautiful.

It fired up my assurance that Maxson is healed, in heaven, and most of all that the Lord reigns true!!

Praying for you guys,

Laura said...

I am so thankful this is all so much bigger than we are. So thankful God did say, "No"....I'm sure it wasn't easy for him to give that answer. That is why He weeps with those who weeps.

Our sweet babies are there waiting for us and it will be a moment before Pearl is in my arms again and Isaac is in your arms again. What a day that will an instant all questions will be answered and we will hear, "Yes...welcome home"

So proud of you Stacy...
Sending love!

Taylor said...

Wow, that Jerry Sitzer quote was incredible. What a wonderful post.

Jenileigh said...


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this beautiful post! It brought many emotions to the surface of my heart and while God does say no; he also says Yes to Heaven and to His open arms. I pray God wraps you in his loving embrace We are praying for your beautiful family as Father's Day approaches. You are a blessing!

Anonymous said...

I can't articulate what this post meant to me Stacy. You must be an amazing teacher for your students and I feel honoured that you teach me also. xxxx

Lauren said...

Amen and Amen! This was a great post and speaks so clearly to me too. We did get our prayers answered "yes" that Norrah would live and thrive but, I have been thinking lately that EVERY NIGHT when I prayed for her I prayed that she would be chromosomally "normal" in every way. And God said "no" to that and lately I have wondered why... why did he do the "big" things and miss this one prayer that I slipped in nightly to cover my bases. Ha! But you reminded me that his "no" was right and just and brings glory through the redemption of Christ... and that is good for me (and Norrah!). Thanks friend.

Anonymous said...

What an awesome post. Thnking of you.


Lorraine said...

Beautifully written. I am struggling with my own "no" ... I'm sure many are in their own ways. Thank you for sharing your life and your thoughts on it.

Lindsay said...

In reference to Jesus' prayer: "What if he hadn't said no?", gave me chills and an awful lot to think about.

Thank you.

ginger said...

Hope you don't mind if I link to this post. I am on a quest to truly understand 2 Cor 12:8-10 with my whole being. I have some posts I have written as well as some that I list on my sidebar that others have written. If you don't want yours there, I will take it down.
My experience is not one of loss like yours, but of asking God to heal me from depression. He did not & I have felt forsaken. But I cling to Him because I know He does not change. Because He has always been there for me. Because, although I do not fully understand what it means, His grace is sufficient.

Angela said...

Thank you for this post. You said it so well. I recently had a situation when God said "yes" to a string of prayers and yet said "no" to the biggest request of them all. And, like you, I have seen that it was because of His goodness and grace that He did say "no." Praise God, for He knows all things!

Unknown said...

This is such a lovely and heartwarming post! x

Taiwo said...

Dear Stacy,

I hope you won't mind my offering to you what I believe about this issue:
Healing, and deliverance are always the will of God and always available. ALWAYS. EVERY TIME. ALL THE TIME. EVERY SINGLE TIME.

See, I appreciate the fact that in your post, you said it is hard to find anyplace in Scripture where God said "no" to anyone. That's only partially true, you see. There isn't one instance where He said. NOT ONE.
What we-Chrsitians-have done, in the two examples that you gave, is that we assume that God said no, which He did not. In your reference to II Cor 12:8, you said, "And God said no". But that's not true. I'm sure you inserted that in there in keeping with the theme of your post and I understand that.
Then again, I know many people assume that Paul's thorn in the flesh was sickness or disease. But the Scripture does not say that. If it was some sickness, I don't believe that the Word of God would be shy or timid about telling us that

The other example you gave was about the Lord in the garden of Gethsemane. I would like to point out at least two things about this. One, the Lord had a special assignment to accomplish, like none of us will never have. He had to do it. Had to. Then, was He really not willing to do the Father's will? Was there any possibility that the Lord would have backed out of doing the Father's will? Any chance at all? I don't think so. I beleive that He was totally committed to doing it but His humanity was recoiling from the suffering that was ahead.
Two, note that His prayer was a prayer of submission. He prayed, "if it be possible, nevertheless, Your will, not My Own be done" It would have been different if He had prayed, "Father, I don't want to do this. Get me out of here. Take me away from here."

In John 11:42 He said to the Father, "I know You Hear Me always." That is worth building a campfire of meditation around. You hear me always.

See, we must put God's Word, which is His Will before our experiences. What does the Word say? Our experiences must line up BEHIND God's Word. It must be that God's Word will line up behind our experiences. God's Word must interpret our experiences.

God has never said no to any prayer request before and He never will. I can take that to court.
I have friends who believe that healing passed away with the first apostles. I have friends who believe that yes, healing is available today, but God will decide if He wants to heal you or not.
I don't quite believe how we, can read the New Testament and come away with that conclusion. There is an over whelming, super abundant evidence and demonstration of the fact and AVAILABILITY of healing that it should be a matter beyond argument or contest.

Remember that the woman with the issue of blood did not even ask for His permission before she took advantage of His healing power. She did not even speak to Him. The power was there all the time. Always available. Remember that in this case, there were multitudes pressing on Him, touching Him at the same time. But she came,with FAITH, purpose and intent, and she got her healing. He, did not even know that she was coming. He did not even know that she was going to draw the power out of Him. We must stand humbly in front of truths like this.
Healing is available from Him all the time. We can always avail ourselves of it all the time.

Taiwo said...

Quickly, it means that the healing did not rest with Jesus, if you know what I mean, but it rested on her and her taking it by faith.
His response? "Your faith has made whole". I want you to go through the gospels and find out how many time he repeated that sentence or another form of it and come away with your own conclusions. It is up to us.

His answer to the one person who came to Him and said, "Lord, You can heal me if you want", was "I will. Be thou healed". Clear, quick, concise answer.

We know that many times we are asked to ask for anything. Whatsoever you desire when you pray believe that you receive them and you shall have them. Mark 11:24. I mean there many, Scriptures like that.
My questions here is why would He ask us to ask for things if there was a possibility, how ever remote that He would say no? That does not add up. I believe He wasn’t joking when He said that. I'm sure He meant every Word. I know He was not kidding me when He said it. I know that if He said, "whatsoever", He fully meant it. I know that He would not ask me to pray and ask if there was any chance that He could say no. That would be a farce, and insincere.

Have I received everything I have asked for? No. But it's not because it was not His will for me to receive. That's settled with me. If I didn’t get the answer, the problem is not with Him, the problem is not that He said no. I have to go back to Him, to His Word, and say, "Lord, I'm missing something here. What I'm I doing wrong. I know You never say no, so what's wrong here. Open my eyes to see what I missed and where."
James 1
2Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into various temptations,
3knowing that the proving of your faith works endurance.
4But let endurance have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
But the Phillips translation renders verse 5 in a way that really helps. "And if the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God - who gives generously to all men.

If we don't know how to get answers, if we don't know what to do in trouble, we should ask Him to show us what to do how to get the answer and He will answer without making us feel bad.

If we don't get answers to prayer, it will never EVER be because He said no. It will be that we did not do something right one way or the other. And we must learn and change to get it.
But we can make a few generalizations as to what the hindrances might be.

1.Your faith has made you whole. Faith. That's the theme of the New Testament. Work on it. Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the Word of God. Romans 10:17

2.Mark 11: 23,24
Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive [them], and ye shall have [them].
And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

He is saying that unforgiveness and things like that can be a hindrance to our receiving answers.

I'm not saying these are the only hindrances to us, but we have to look into the Word to find the other hindrances and guard against them.

We have to sit down and learn from this experience at His feet, at the feet of the Word.

The grace of the Lord Jesus, yours and mine, be with you.

Taiwo said...

II Cor 1:20

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.