I knew the answer, but I didn’t want to hear it.
“No. Not this season. Not yet.”
So I tried to twist God’s arm a little. Present him with a list of reasons why my plan was better. Manipulate. Did he see the stress and worry our family experienced? Did he care?
When that approach didn’t work, I cried bitter tears. My body felt like it was imploding as I screamed the question, “Why?”
I still don’t have the answer.
We don’t like to be left with unanswered questions, do we? We like it when life follows a proven formula, when prayers are answered like clockwork, and suffering is limited. “No” feels like punishment.
When we don’t see the reason for it or what lies on the other side, we often assume that nothing good can come from it. All we see is a hope deferred, yet again, for an unknown season.
But what if “no” is actually God’s grace?
What if he’s working in invisible realms, even when we don’t understand his ways?
When Jesus sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gesthemane, he knew the torture that awaited him in the coming hours. He knew how is body would be pulverized as the cat o’ nine tails ripped into his flesh. He wanted another way. His whole being ached for another way. Though divine, he still experienced every yearning you and I do today.
“‘Abba, Father,’” he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.’”
We know the end of the story. There was no other way.
“Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Though his flesh ached for deliverance, Jesus’ spirit was willing to endure his pending hell. For you. For me, and each and every one of us.
In that moment, his Father’s “no” became the grace that rocked heaven.
Those three days when the earth mourned for their lost Rabbi, he was conquering death. To them he was gone. Invisible. Defeated. But we know he was completing his mightiest work.
While we have the comfort of knowing the end of the story, those closest to him didn’t. They wailed. They asked that gut-wrenching question. Why?
As we enter the Easter season, I don’t know what unanswered prayer you’re experiencing. The “no” in your own life may seem insurmountable. Like a huge curtain that hangs heavily between you and God.
Can I remind you of something? Because of the Father’s “no” and Jesus’ obedience, the curtain dividing you and God was ripped from top to bottom. Its dividing power permanently broken.
Sometimes a “no” is God’s saving grace.
We may not see it. It may take every ounce of faith and death of our flesh to believe it.
But I do. If he was willing to endure the violence. The separation. The weight of each and every sin. I have to believe his love is perfect.
And I have to believe his “no,” in some way I don’t yet see, is perfect love too.
In my new book, Shift, I talk more about how God’s “no” can be his greatest grace and how to shift our perspective in the midst of life’s struggles. How can we see God’s hand, even when life isn’t turning out the way we anticipated? I believe we can, but it requires a shift. You can pick up your copy of Shift by clicking the image below.