Comfort and Encouragement When God Says No

I wasn’t yet 30 when I was forced to accept the fact that my so-called child-bearing years were over. Randy and I had spent three years trying to get pregnant, to no avail, and we had good reason to believe that any further attempts also would be futile.

locked gate 2

We were at peace with our decision to leave the infertility roller coaster behind and move forward with adoption, but I still longed for spiritual closure. I didn’t want to parent my future children with one part of my heart still hoping for a “miracle baby.” I wanted to be all-in with God’s unfolding plan for our family.

This process actually began while we were still trying to conceive, with encouragement coming from a couple of rather unlikely sources.

I was in the shower one day, thinking about how the Bible says that Jesus can empathize with all our weaknesses because He knows “exactly how it feels to be human” (see Hebrews 4:15 in the Amplified Bible.) But Jesus wasn’t a woman, so how could He possibly relate to the grief associated with not being able to conceive a baby? He never had biological children, so perhaps He could relate a little bit. But could He really understand?

Then it hit me. I was focusing on the end result, not the process. Even though my infertility had a known physical cause, my basic problem was a spiritual one: God had responded to my prayers for a baby with a resounding no.

That’s where I found my assurance that Jesus really did understand what I was going through. He wasn’t a woman, so He didn’t have my hormonal makeup and reproductive equipment. But at one point in His life—at the most pivotal crossroads a human being could ever imagine—He too got a big fat no from God.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest and crucifixion, He asked God for another way three times. And all three times, God said no.

Think about the ramifications of God’s answer. We’re not talking about the disappointment of an unfulfilled dream here. We’re talking about the inexpressible anguish of being separated from the presence of God after an eternity of togetherness.

We’re talking about the relentless agony of having your heavenly Father turn His back on you. We’re talking about the excruciating pain of bearing the punishment for the sins of the world.

Does Jesus understand how it feels when God says no? Absolutely. He’s not some comforter wanna-be who would really like to empathize with people but can’t because he never had cancer, never lost a loved one or never battled depression. The Bible explicitly says He’s a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” who has “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (see Isaiah 53:3-4).

Knowing that Jesus willingly accepted a no from God, despite the pain it involved, was a tremendous encouragement to me as I slowly released my grip on my dream for a pregnancy.

But Christ’s example wasn’t the only scriptural model that helped me come to spiritual closure, both in that situation as well as ones that came later. The second person was someone who, like me, had an intense desire to do something good and honorable but couldn’t fulfill his dream because God said no.

I’m talking about David, the king of Israel. This man after God’s own heart wanted to build a temple where his countrymen could worship God. But because he had fought in many wars and shed much blood, God would not allow him to construct the structure (see 1 Chronicles 22:7-8).

On the surface, this really doesn’t seem fair. David wasn’t waging war out of some sadistic need to destroy people. He was carrying out God’s plan to defeat Israel’s enemies. In a way, it was his obedience that kept him from building the temple.

I imagine that David was extremely disappointed that he could not oversee this impressive construction project. He might have even been very upset about it at first.

But he didn’t dwell on it. He accepted God’s decree, and he devoted his final years to making “extensive preparations” to ensure that his son Solomon would be able to build a temple for the Lord that would be “of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations” (1 Chronicles 22:5).

David didn’t just organize the materials, however. He also ordered all of Israel’s leaders to help Solomon. He did everything in his power to make sure the project was a success, no matter who completed it. He was more concerned about giving God glory than he was about adding an impressive accomplishment to his own resume.

Instead of getting bitter, he made the best of a disappointing situation. He didn’t try to forge ahead and build a temple on his own. He obeyed God, and his obedience allowed his son to construct a glorious temple.

In the aftermath of great disappointment, David chose to be selfless. Because he realized it wasn’t all about him, he was able to move on—graciously and helpfully.

No matter the situation, that’s how I want to respond when God says no.

Graciously and helpfully.

Lois Flowers

P.S. I’m linking up this week with Grace & Truth, Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Lyli Dunbar #ThoughtProvokingThursday and Missional Women.

28 Responses to Comfort and Encouragement When God Says No

  1. There are certainly times I don’t believe Jesus understands what I am going through. This really helps!

  2. June says:

    Such a beautiful, encouraging post, Lois!

    Jesus’ prayer in the garden should also quiet those who contend that unanswered prayer = a lack of faith. While I believe that our path is sometimes one laid out by God to build and increase our faith, it is ultimately governed by His sovereign will for the good of those who love Him.

    Have a blessed week!

  3. Bethany says:

    Wow wow wow Lois. “But could He really understand?” That question is a powerful one, and how glad I am that before I thought of it myself you made this point. I will remember this and am so grateful He answered you as He did -perfectly. And for your example in this! Blessings!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Bethany, I think this is why the story of the woman who touched the edge of Jesus’s garment means so much to me. To think that He purposely stopped and healed someone who struggled in an area unique to women–and later prompted the writers of scripture to include the interaction–shows me that He truly does understand. He didn’t heal me as I once hoped He would, but you’re right–His answer turned out to be just right! Have a wonderful weekend!

  4. Liz says:

    Lois, This is beautiful encouragment for when God says no. It’s OK, he still loves us and He understands our disappointment and grief. Thank you for sharing!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      It’s a real gift when someone truly understands, isn’t it? And when that someone is the Creator of the Universe? It doesn’t get any better than that! So glad to hear from you today, Liz!

  5. Crystal says:

    Lois, what a powerful post about accepting a “no” from God and the comfort we can find in our Savior who understands the pain we feel and the tears we cry. Thank you for sharing your story, and wonderful to hear that you are the loving mom to two daughters. Have a wonderful weekend. #Grace&Truth

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I’m so glad you stopped by, Crystal. I slipped back over to your blog and was once again refreshed and encouraged by what I read. 🙂 Many blessings to you, both today and in the coming weeks and months!

  6. Barbara says:

    Thank you for your insightful words. Two great Spiritual examples to learn from. I too want to respond this way when an answer is no. My husband and I experienced infertility also. Such a hard journey to go through. Thankful the Lord was with us even though I often did not think so at the time. Blessings!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Sometimes God’s presence is only seen in retrospect, isn’t it? I am glad that He gives us those glimpses, though. It’s so nice to hear from you, Barbara. Have a wonderful day!

  7. Emily says:

    It can be hard when God says No, but what a comfort to know that He only has the best plans for us. We just need to learn to trust in Him and find comfort in His promises!

  8. Such great examples from God’s word of coping with a no. The anguish of the cup that Jesus bore and David – well, his life is just chock full of learning opportunity. It’s amazing to think on the magnitude of Christ’s understanding of us – He knows and He is able to clearly direct our path. Such great words and encouragement here, Lois.

  9. Gosh, this is so beautiful, Lois. To write about the bigger issue behind the very real surface issue… the way your heart worked out His process of healing and answering…
    real honest wisdom for the “no” situations.
    Thank you!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      It’s definitely a process, and not an overnight one either! But I am thankful for the work God does in our hearts and minds in the aftermath of His “no’s.” Thanks for your encouragement today, Christine. 🙂

  10. Lisa Moore says:

    I love how you pointed out that Jesus can even empathize with a woman, because He knew what it was like for when God said no. Beautiful.

  11. Lois, I love how you shared Biblical examples of how Jesus and David responded to God’s no. It’s so easy to wallow in self-pity when God says no.

    Walking the infertility road taught me about God’s no’s too. I’m so thankful that He brings encouragers through His word and through relationships to help us see beyond the answer to the Giver of all good things. Jesus and David didn’t dwell on the no, or stay in the place of disappointment. They moved forward “graciously and helpfully.”

    You’ve given me some good truth to ponder. Thank you. 🙂

    Visiting from #RaRaLinkup.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Jeanne, I must admit that my default response is not always graciousness or helpfulness, at least not initially. But these examples offer hope that it is possible to move past the disappointment and fully embrace whatever God’s plan actually is. I’ve definitely seen that play out with my family, which bolsters my faith for other scenarios as well. Blessings to you today!

  12. Trudy says:

    I love what God taught you, Lois. Especially the part of how Jesus knows how it feels when God says no. That’s such a hope-filled truth. Thank you. I love also that you “wanted to be all-in with God’s unfolding plan for our family.” That’s so beautiful you wanted that spiritual closure before you adopted. Now that’s showing such a great love commitment to your adopted children. They are so blessed to have you. 🙂

    • Lois Flowers says:

      And we are even more blessed to have them! 🙂 (I honestly cannot imagine being mom to anyone else!) Thank you for your faithful encouragement, Trudy … your thoughtful comments always bring a smile to my face!

  13. Linda Stoll says:

    Good morning, friend … I love how you coined your yearning as ‘spiritual closure.’ How true this is, how needed we find this call, what a difficult task it can turn out to be.

    Thank God He gets it. He truly knows those deepest yearnings that far surpass the physical or even emotional circumstances we find ourselves in.

    Always appreciate the words that flow from your heart, Lois …

  14. Kristine says:

    Lois, what a sobering truth we all need to hold deep in our hearts – Jesus understands when God says no. Wonderful lesson, and something we all need for those hard moments and lost dreams. Thank you so much for sharing what God put in your heart:)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *