Monday, July 18, 2011

When God Says No

I feel like I've been writing this blog post in my mind for the past several days. This topic is one I have thought about lots of times throughout my life but more intensely the last couple of weeks. One of my very favorite people in life is Dr. Charles Stanley. I've read his articles and listened to his sermons for over half my life now. Of all the things that he's said, there's one particular message that has stuck with me: his message on Psalm 37, the desires of our heart. Dr. Stanley made a very true statement when he said, "the more intense our desire, the shorter our waiting fuse." Does that ring true in anyone else's life besides mine? I think back to when I was in middle school or high school and I was literally on my knees saying PPPLLLEEEEEASE God do this or PPPLLLEEEEASE God give me that. I thought I would literally stop living if I didn't have that particular thing. Then I got to college and the issues became more serious. Questions about a course of study, a career path and finding a mate start to press in on us. After college, wanting to find that perfect job, being financially stable, marriage, starting a family... all of these things are the desires of our hearts. "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." ~Psalm 37:4. I clung to this verse. I can remember in my quiet time reading it over and over, but at that time I did not understand what was packed in this verse. In my concordance I looked up the Hebrew meaning of the word "delight" as it is used in this verse. I love this, are you ready for this? It says it means, "enjoy." Enjoy the Lord. I have sat and thought about that alone for what is probably hours. Let's break this down. Enjoying something, hmmm. One of my most favorite things is the ocean. When I am near the beach, I am a happy girl. I "enjoy" the beach. What does it take for me to enjoy the beach? Sitting. That's what it takes. Sitting next to it and looking at it, hearing the waves, smelling the ocean air. That's it, just sitting in its presence... listening and breathing. Have you ever noticed that when you spend a lot of time with someone, you start to pick up their little nuances? For instance, it could be a certain mannerism or a phrase they say. I'm going to pick on my husband for a minute. He is a southern boy. When he first moved up here, his accent was thick. It was so thick, I made fun of him at every opportunity. Over the years he has started to sound less like a southern boy and more like a "yankee" (as he would call us). The same thing happens when we go down south. It takes all of about five seconds of being around his friends and family before that southern accent appears with force. When you're around someone you favor, you start to act like them. You start to think like them or behave like them. I think that's what this verse is really talking about. You see, this beautiful thing happens when we spend time with God. When we sit with Him, when we listen to Him, when we watch Him. You cannot help but enjoy Him. And all of a sudden, because of His grace, His ways become your ways. His thoughts become your thoughts. And watch this: His desires become your desires.

So fast forward, what happens when we're doing this and our desires are His desires, or so we think, and we're asking Him to fulfill these desires and He says, "No." You get those test results that you didn't want to hear. Your boss calls you in his office and you lose your job. You get that phone call that changes everything. You lose someone. What happens now when you begged God, when you trusted Him, for a different result? I'm not going to remotely pretend like I have the answer, only God knows the answer. But I have something that has helped. Ever since I was a little girl, my Mom and Dad taught me something. They read it or heard it somewhere but they would say this to us often growing up. God answers prayer in one of four ways:
1.) Yes, and here's more.
2.) Yes, I thought you'd never ask.
3.) No, not yet.
4.) No, I love you too much.

This revolutionized the way I thought about prayer and the answer to prayer. As I have grown up and have seen each of these four responses played out in my own life before me, it has changed my reaction to the "no's." Does this make it easy? Oh my, no. It doesn't. But it does make it easier. My friends who have just experienced a "no," particularly the one that stings the most (No, I love you too much), I want to encourage you and I'm praying for you as I write this post. I am praying another one of my favorite verses over you. I don't often read the Message version of scripture but in this case, I love the wording. I will close with reading these words that the Lord Himself says:

"Because I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I'm not letting go. I'm telling you, 'Don't panic. I'm right here to help you.'" ~Isaiah 41:13

Enjoy God,