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.
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.
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.