“God never says ‘no'” (and other lies that disappoint)

About a year ago in my small group we were discussing God’s will and prayer. One very sweet woman, in sharing her thoughts, said this quote:

God never says, “No.” He only says, “Yes” or “Wait.”

When she said it, people made a contented sigh at the lovely idea, myself included. It wasn’t until later, while I was riding home on the subway and reflecting on our discussion, that I reconsidered it and had to confess to myself, “Um, wait a minute. That’s not true.”

truthI think similar refrigerator-magnet devotional thoughts get tossed to and fro at an especially high rate when someone is going through a hard time. It’s like people need to say something, and they figure it’s better to say anything that sounds nice — even if it’s not true in the slightest — than to say nothing at all. And people who are struggling without a solid foundation beneath them will take anything they can get.

Last spring I Skyped in to a conference at my church on infertility, miscarriage and child loss. At one point they had a panel of women who had experienced such tragedies, and they were asked a variety of questions. One question was, “What is the least comforting thing someone said to you in your affliction?” There were a few unkind things to mention, but the responses that stuck out to me were non-truths like the one above. One woman, a friend of mine who lost one baby in a car accident and another in stillbirth, said the thing that bothers her the most is when people try to comfort her by saying her babies are now angels. While she knows they mean well, it irks her to hear things like that that just aren’t true, and therefore aren’t comforting to someone who knows truth.

So let me address the fallacy about prayer mentioned above. Let me say that yes, we always have hope in prayer. God can do anything, and He makes lots of promises about prayer in scripture. I can’t explain it, but at the same time, it is true that God sometimes just says “no” to our requests. There are biblical examples of this. Continue reading ““God never says ‘no’” (and other lies that disappoint)”