For months, I held the weight of expectancy in my heart.
It filled my prayers, woke me in the middle of the night, and entered my dreams. I didn’t know what the answer would be, but I carried a childlike confidence. Almost certain a “yes” was eminent, I prayed with more boldness, sure that this step in writing would further the message God called me to.
Then, the email arrived in my inbox. I read it several times, trying to process each syllable and search for a reason to the unknown. The answer was no. And in the space of a few seconds, a door I’d waited for months to open wide was shut with finality.
Nothing I could say or do would open it, and questions consumed my mind for days after reading the words. Did I pray hard enough? Big enough? Was there something I could have said or done to change the outcome?
Rejections and closed doors can make us want to retreat. They can bring us to our knees as we doubt our abilities, God’s calling on our lives and our next steps forward. This no cut deep, and I knew I needed to allow myself time to grieve for a few days. But I also knew I had to keep going. One of God’s greatest gifts in my life is having friends who speak truth and life, and after a day of feeling sorry for myself, two of them spoke the exact same wisdom into my heart:
“Abby, I think God is creating space to work on what’s most important during this season.”
We tend to fill our lives up with every good thing we can, don’t we? If the opportunity is available and it’s appealing, we may not even stop to pray or to seek God about whether or not it’s a good idea.
But the more I follow Jesus, the more I see that the noes in life are as much of a gift as the yeses.
Why? Because they allow space. They clear the clutter and create room in our over-packed, crammed full agenda for the things he desires for us. They provide time to for us to stop focusing on the good and pursue the very best he has for us.
Yes, sometimes it’s painful. Pruning is almost never easy. But it’s oh so necessary. It’s what a loving Father does for his children, and you know what? He even did it for his very own Son, Jesus.
Sometimes we read the same passage of scripture so many times, we think we’ve gleaned all there is to receive from it. But as I read in the gospel of John last week, the words jumped off the page as I realized Jesus wasn’t describing something he hadn’t experienced. He was the one who directed by the Father first, so we later could receive the same loving treatment after him, for our benefit.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
The vine and the vinedresser were in compete connection. They were one. But this oneness came at a cost.
Jesus repeatedly reminds us throughout this gospel that he was not there to carry out his own will, but the will of the Father. He gets away to connect with him, to pray, and to seek the Father’s course, not his own.
Friends, Jesus was perfect and without sin, but he still had to receive instruction. He was human in every way, with the same emotions, will, and distractions you and I face each moment.
Noes are not an act of dictatorship, but an act of love.
It may be closed doors or a simple course redirect. It may be a no which leads to a perfect yes. But each cut is necessary, or it wouldn’t be done. We don’t serve a God who waves at us as an onlooker from afar, but one who’s concerned with each intimate detail of our lives. And just as he pruned his own Son, he prunes us.
He knows the next step and what will be required of us to make it with intention. He knows the mountains and the valleys that lay ahead. Trust him even when the noes come. Because your “yes” could be just around the corner.
If you need to shift your focus from a struggle or worry and see what God is already doing in your life, I encourage you to pick of a copy of my book, Shift: Changing Our Focus to See the Presence of God. I talk more about the ways a simple shift can change everything. Many people have sent me messages saying it is a timely book for this season. This encourages my heart so much. I pray that God continues to use it to touch lives.
Here’s what one reader said:
“Like a friend, Abby comes alongside us and weaves great stories from real life into her message of hope. Shift is encouraging me to seek God in the middle of my struggles and to focus on His presence with me more than on my expectations of what I wish were happening in my life right now.” -Betsy
You can pick up a copy of Shift by clicking the image below.