When’s the last time you felt the answer to a prayer was no? I’m talking about something you really wanted but God legit said no.
Do you feel peace when you make big decisions? Is that the standard to know that you’ve done the right thing? Is that even the most valid measure?
We often make decisions and use the feeling of “peace” as the barometer for whether or not it was right. The more time we’ve spent in prayer the more we can say we’ve felt peace. But when’s the last time we’ve felt the answer to a prayer was no?
I’m talking about something we’ve really wanted. Something we’ve had our hearts set on. It seems to be rare that God says no in these situations. So what often happens is: we make a choice → we pray → and then feel like God said yes. But did he? Or is it more likely that we’ve made a decision then used flowery Christian language to justify it?
When I was a kid, it was popular in our church circles to say “God told me.” Those three little words basically gave you carte blanche and no one was allowed to question you because doing so would be to question God. While “God told me” has fallen out of favor, it’s been replaced by “I feel convicted about this.” Again, who can question someone’s convictions?
Feeling Good Doesn’t Mean It’s Good
My go to example in this case is the prophet Jonah. God gave him a very clear directive. Jonah chose to go in the other direction (literally) and felt no qualms about it. How do we know that? While the ship was caught in a terrible storm, he slept. As the world was crashing around him, a moment that produced severe anxiety in those who were with him, Jonah was getting some good REM. If that doesn’t scream “I’m at peace with what I’ve done” then I don’t know what does.
I think we do this too. We make choices and even if the outcome is bad as a direct result, we sleep anyway. We’re masters at justifying our mess. Our inner lawyers put in overtime to make the bad good.
Typically when we make the wrong decision, it doesn’t go well for us. The question is, what do we do in those moments? Do we turn or do we continue down the path we know we shouldn’t have gone down in the first place?
One remedy to this problem is found in 1 Peter 4:7 T he end of all things is near; therefore, be alert and sober-minded for prayer.
In a world that is constantly clouding our minds, this is difficult. We are always being drawn in by the prospect of more: more trips, more food, more fun, more people, more money, more freedom, more things…always more. The sober mind can say: enough.
If we can say enough then hearing the word No from God won’t feel like an attack on our joy. We can understand that his no is for our good.
Our deepest desires are not a surprise to God. he is intimately aware of the longings of our hearts, both the wants and needs. Trusting Him more than we trust ourselves means that we can trust the no. His no is informed by much more information than we have.
While we’re here, trusting God’s no also means that we understand some hard truths. We like to believe that when God says no it means “later” or He has “something better” for us. Sometimes the answer is just no without caveats and we have to be at peace with that to experience full joy in the Christian life.
True peace is going to be found in His vision, not ours.
I am the first to admit this isn’t easy. It may be one of the hardest things for us to accept but if we’re serious about wanting to live the life God has for us then we must learn to find peace in the Nos of life and trust that His way is better than ours.
Jonah learned this lesson the hard way. Three days in the smelly belly of a fish. May we not need such drastic measures to learn such simple lessons.