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.”
I 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.
Take Paul. He tells us in 2 Corinthians 12 that he suffered for some time with “a thorn in the flesh.” He doesn’t give details, though it’s generally speculated that this is referring to some type of physical problem. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.” He was begging God to take away his painful problem. But God’s answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And that was it. A big fat “no.” (BFN, anyone?)
Do you know who else received a “no”? Jesus. The night He was betrayed, Jesus was praying fervently in the garden. He was so stressed He was sweating blood. In Matthew 26 it is recorded,
“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.'”
In light of what you surely know happened to Jesus in the days following this, think about that verse. He fell on His face asking not to have to go through the suffering and death on the cross. But you know He did. God said “no” and forsook Him there.
You know that the “no” in these times was for the better. Paul says God gave him his trial to keep him from boasting. Jesus rose from the dead so that by our faith in Him we may not die like He did. And because you know God loves you, you must know that His “no” to you is also always for the better.
I pray that you take comfort in knowing God loves you, even in the “no,” and He has a good and perfect plan for you. I pray that you can know truth and it can free you from being tossed to and fro by non-truths that are empty and disappointing. In Isaiah 49:23 God says, “Those who put their hope in Me will not be disappointed.” I can’t say the same for every cutesy quote you pin or read in a greeting card.
*Will you add to this post? Please comment about another lie you’ve heard in your trial, and the truth that counteracts it.