I can still see it: Dad standing on the bleachers in my middle school gymnasium, clapping his hands raw because his daughter had been named Student of the Month.
I can also still see this: the empty space in the auditorium where Dad should have been to witness my graduation from grad school.
Dad has always been prouder of my accomplishments than anyone else, including myself. So I’d prayed hard all summer: Please, God. Let Dad’s health improve so he can see me graduate.
Instead, my family watched his health go downhill. I saw him lying in a hospital bed, controlled by tubes and unable to muster a smile of support.
I trusted that he’d get better. I reserved a seat for him at my hooding ceremony. I counted him in my dinner reservations. Ultimately, however, I was forced to make other plans. Mom, my aunt, and my fiancé made the road trip to Vermont; Dad stayed in his hospital bed. And although I don’t want to discount the support I received from family and friends, the whole celebration felt empty without my father.
When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I received a cane—as is tradition at my school. Dad made me promise that if I ever got a second cane, I’d give it to him. So when I got my master’s from the same college, that second cane felt more significant than the degree. Walking off the stage, I gestured with my cane at Dad’s empty chair: This one’s for you.
What do you do when God says no?
It felt like God said no to me. No, I won’t heal your Dad now. I wrestled with his response. No, Laura. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
I don’t know why God’s answer was no. But I can tell you this: God was with me then, just like God is with me now—even as my family continues to struggle with the ups and downs of Dad’s health. Although this is still a difficult situation, God is still in control, and he is still reminding me that he loves me.
God is with you, too—especially when you’re hurting or frustrated or afraid. When you’re waiting and asking Why not now, God?, his response is not usually, “Yeah, okay, I’ll just do that now.” Instead, God reminds you, “Remember how I love you. Wait. Watch. Rest.”
In the Bible, God gives us his word that he hears us, he is with us, and he is in control—even and especially when the answer is no.
As you confront instances in your life where you feel God is saying no, consider these truths from the Bible:
God hears your prayers.
“We have courage in God's presence, because we are sure that he hears us if we ask him for anything that is according to his will.” —1 John 5:14, GNTD
God sees your frustration and sorrow.
Jesus says, “Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them!” —Matthew 5:4, GNTD
God works things for a greater good.
“We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose.” —Romans 8:28, GNTD
God inspires you to continue to hope, to pray, to be patient.
“For it was by hope that we were saved; but if we see what we hope for, then it is not really hope. For who of us hopes for something we see? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” —Romans 8:24–25, GNTD
“There is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.” —Romans 8:38–39, GNTD
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