God speaks often about persistence in prayer, asking until we receive, and trusting he hears and will respond. But, apparently, there are times when we need to stop storming the gates of heaven for an answer we want desperately. Sometimes God simply says “no”.
If that’s happened to you, you’re in good company. Moses had that experience when he pleaded with God to let him go over with the people into the promised land and God said: “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter” (Deuteronomy 3:26b). In other words, “Stop asking me, Moses. I already told you ‘no'”.
Paul had something similar happen when he prayed three times for his physical problem to be taken away. God didn’t answer the prayer the way Paul had hoped, but he did promise that his grace would see Paul through the difficulty.
If Moses and Paul, amazing saints, didn’t always get “yesses” to their prayers, we realize that sometimes we, too, have to accept “no” as an answer! When that happens, what do we do?
We stop repeating a prayer we know God has already said “no” to.
We don’t protest.
We persevere, asking for faith to rely on him to be with us in the difficult circumstance.
We acknowledge, as Paul did, that human weakness can be an avenue through which God displays his power – in ways we couldn’t even think to pray about.
We keep on loving, trusting, and worshiping God.
And then, at some point, we’ll find that God’s “no” was a great blessing!
“God’s refusals are always merciful – ‘severe mercies’ at times – but mercies all the same. God never denies us our heart’s desire except to give us something better.” – Elisabeth Elliot
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.” – Isaiah 30:21
Are you a plodder?
We want to soar like eagles, not trudge along like mules. We want our ideas to go viral. We want to influence thousands. We want our posts to be liked and shared, our opinions welcomed. We want to see that we matter.
C. S. Lewis put it this way in talking about his grief after his wife’s death: “We want to prove to ourselves that we are lovers on a grand scale, tragic heroes; not just ordinary privates in the huge army of the bereaved, slogging along and making the best of a bad job.” We all hate to think we are ordinary. We have aspirations to greatness.
But, for most of us, instead of soaring, we plod. We try to do the next right thing and the next and the next. All small things, all building something that we hope will matter, even though we can’t even imagine what it will be. Instead we find ourselves on a path just putting one foot in front of the other.
Maybe that needs to be OK with us. Maybe that’s exactly where God wants us: Following the path He opens in front of us and trusting Him to make our journey significant. I think He calls it faithfulness.
So, if we find ourselves plodding along, let’s not give up. Let’s keep going, listening for His direction, and anticipating what He will do with our small steps today.
“I can plod. That is my only genius. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.” – William Carey (1761-1844), missionary to India