WHEN GOD SAYS ‘NO’
Every believer, at one point (or several) in their lives, will face a crisis. It may be a marriage on the brink of collapse, a severe medical diagnosis, the threat of financial ruin, or the risk of some other significant loss. I am not referring to small challenges that we face throughout our lives. I am speaking about seemingly insurmountable mountains that threaten our lives in a very personal way.
For most believers, the immediate response is to begin to pray earnestly over the issue and call upon their friends and family to join them in prayer. There will likely be days of fasting, intercessory prayer, anointing with oil, and the reading and quoting of scriptural passages regarding answered prayer and God’s promises.
Picture this: you are in a deep crisis, walking in the darkest valley you have ever faced, and you begin to pray earnestly and ask others to pray with you. Someone will likely quote John 16:23 ("…Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.”). Another friend may lovingly remind you of the promise in James 5:15 (“And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.”). Yet another will encourage you with the reminder in James 5:17, that “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.”
Now, if you are honest, you will begin to fully believe that God will hear and answer the prayers and deliver you from the painful crisis that you are facing. When we pray for healing and deliverance, in faith, our hope is that, in the end, we will testify of God's goodness. We hope and anticipate that God will look upon us with mercy and grace and say "YES, my child, I shall take this crisis away". We begin to read, over and over, about how Elijah prayed and rain fell; how Elisha resurrected the son of the Shunammite woman; how God parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross; and how Jesus resurrected Jairus' precious daughter. We cannot help but ask ourselves, is anything too hard for this great God?
Now, imagine that God says “WAIT”. The healing has not yet come, but it still may. You have not been delivered from the adversity, but there is still a chance; there is still hope. So, you encourage yourself, and other believers remind you of Paul’s exhortation: pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16). You still have hope that you will experience answered prayer; the wait is worrying, but you still have room to believe that the “YES” is around the corner. You remember the caution that we do not have because we do not ask (James 4:2). So you keep praying. Hope remains alive.
Now, picture this: God does not say “YES”, and he does not say "WAIT". God says "NO my child". No. There is no room for a different outcome; the final decision is in. The illness is terminal; you have just days to live. The marriage is over; your spouse files for divorce. The phone call comes from the hospital; the one you love has breathed their last.
You prayed; faithful men and women prayed. The prayers were as earnest as Elijah's. You exercised faith, and you fasted; you fully believed the biblical promises. And God said "NO". You climbed up the mountain of hope, but you are now drowning in the depths of disillusionment. What do you do then? Paul talks about the hope that does not disappoint; but what about the disappointment you feel?
A person who has experienced deep personal disappointment in prayer will likely confess that they felt unloved, anger, betrayal, doubt, and loneliness. If they are honest, they will admit that they doubted God's love, goodness, faithfulness and perhaps even His existence. If that person is more open, they will confess to feeling angry towards God because they thought that He had betrayed them and that they felt lonely with a sense that God had turned His back on them. To make matters worse, most believers do not know what to say when this happens. While many will gladly come to celebrate answered prayer and positive testimony, few will approach one who has experienced such deep disappointment in prayer. Many will not know what to say and will find the situation very awkward indeed. A few brave souls may simply whisper something about "God's will" or "God's perfect plan" without fully understanding or believing what they are saying. Others will stay away, afraid of saying the wrong thing. The very wise will simply sit by you in silent comfort, knowing that words are not enough.
Two and a half months ago, my precious son, Jonathan Nathanael Adongo, was stillborn after months of fervent prayer over his health. Many believers prayed earnestly, with faith, for his healing. We waited on God for a miracle for our little boy.
But on 11 September, when we faced a silent ultrasound screen, God said "NO". There was no more "WAIT"; no more hope that circumstances would change for sweet little Jonathan. Our hope brought much disappointment and grief. I was plunged into a deep crisis, and I questioned everything that I thought I knew about God. He says that He is loving, but this does not feel loving. He says that He is kind, compassionate and good, but this does not feel kind, compassionate or good. He promises not to give us a stone when we pray for bread, but this loss feels more like a massive rock than soft sweet bread.
This season has ushered me into a journey through scripture to try to make sense of this God that I love and believe in. I have some big questions for Him. Over the next weeks, I will share what the Holy Spirit has been revealing to me about these questions:
Why does God tell us to present our petitions to Him if He will do what He wills? Why pray when God's will may be different from yours, anyway?
Does God get angry when we doubt Him, or we feel angry and betrayed when He says “NO”? Will we lose our salvation when we question God?
What is this hope that does not disappoint, if we are almost guaranteed that some of our prayers will not be answered the way we would hope?
How should we interpret John 16:23 and James 5:15? When we do not get the answer we prayed for, does it mean we did not have enough faith or that we did not pray in the right way?
Please join me over the next few weeks as we consider what God has to say about these questions.