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When God says “no” to our requests, there is always a greater “yes” that He’s advancing for us.
Do you believe this to be true?
We pray but then we get distracted when God answers our prayer, perhaps in a different way than we expected.
Or we pray for something else, and things appear to worsen. What is God doing in these instances?
Does He hear us? Does He care? The answer to both questions is “yes.’
If that’s true, then we might ask, “Why would He not grant our requests in exactly the way we asked Him or in a swift and obvious way?”
Well, He’s growing us, for starters.
We need growth in our relationship with Him. This is far more valuable than the answer to anything about which we may be praying.
He’s also building our faith in Him through the trials of life.
And He’s always giving us something better than that for which we asked… even when it doesn’t seem better from our finite perspective. We may be asking for things of copper, figuratively speaking, when He grants us things of finest gold!
I’m comforted by this thought when my prayers seem to go unanswered by God.
God hears all of the prayers of His redeemed people. He loves His sheep. And like a good father, He doesn’t give us bad things even when they are earnestly sought and desired by His short-sighted children.
You recall what Jesus said in Matthew 7:9-11…
“…which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?
11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Do you see what our Lord is saying here? God always gives good things to His children. This is true even when our prayer for something that we think to be good is not granted in the way that we had hoped.
It’s not that our prayers are always unreasonable. We are often asking for very good things. But there are far too many factors involved for us to understand every reason for the way an infinite God responds to the prayers of His people.
“No” is a perfectly good and loving answer to the often misguided requests of a finite creature. But here’s the hard thing: “no” is sometimes the best answer to some of our most noble and heartfelt requests as well.
“No” is often the most loving answer to some of my prayers. And other times, what feels like a “no” is in reality a “not yet” or a “not in that way” kind of response.
There are many times when I must say “no” to my children. It is good and loving for me to deny certain requests that would lead to their harm or would endanger them in some way. We understand those denials.
I think in a figuarative sense, there have been times in my prayers that I have unknowingly asked God for stones, but in His love He has given me the bread I really need. Or I have ignorantly asked Him for what amounts to a snake, but He has lovingly given me the fish I need instead.
We do the same thing with our children because we love them.
I must sometimes say “no” to my children when a request doesn’t promote the greater good of the family or otherwise increases the likelihood of unintended consequences.
It is the relationship between the giver and the receiver that determines how we deal with those kinds of denials.
Do we really trust that God is the Giver of every good and perfect gift? We when trust Him, it flavors and seasons the way we pray.
So as we pray to God and don’t see Him answering some of our prayers in the way that we might wish, bear in mind that He never denies us any good thing. He always promotes that which is superior and best for our greatest good forever.
And this is very good news for us.
In February of 2014, I woke up one morning and couldn’t see very well. I later came to learn that I had gone 70% blind in my left eye.
My world changed suddenly.
For days, I couldn’t get medical attention because ophthalmologists in our region didn’t have available time to see a new patient – even one with an urgent problem. We then considered going out of state to get help – any help.
Finally, an optometrist in Tulsa agreed to check out my situation. My left optic nerve was swollen “off the charts,” they said. It was in the process of dying due to a lack of blood supply. They didn’t know what was causing it.
For some reason, they couldn’t get me in to see the specialist who worked in the same practice and office building just a few doors down and was familiar with the realm where my problem was centered: he was a diabetic eye specialist.
Instead, they sent me on a wild ride of medical tests at the local hospitals including an MRI, a neurologist, and a lumbar puncture (spinal tap).
At the end of all of those procedures and multiple visual field tests, I had none of the most-dreaded problems that were suspected to be causing my partial blindness (like multiple sclerosis or a brain tumor), and yet I was still partially blind.
And even now, my vision continues to slowly weaken. My eyeglasses prescriptions can’t keep up with my declining vision. I now preach using electronic notes on a tablet with ever-increasing fonts.
All of this background is to say that God has full control of my vision. God has lovingly ordained this trial for my good and for the good of my family.
Like Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:1-10), I have prayed multiple times that the Lord would remove this thorn and restore my sight. I know He is able to do so. But I also know that He has multiple purposes in all of our afflictions that will be our resounding themes of glory in the age to come.
But for now we live in this valley of the shadow of death; and yet, we may fear no evil (at least, no ultimate evil) for the Lord Himself is with us. He is present in our afflictions. He is with us in our darkness and disabilities.
The purposes of Christ for His people are always exceedingly good. Yet in this life, they are seldom easy to bear or appealing to our flesh.
And that’s the point… or that’s at least one of the points. You and I were not made to live forever in this fallen present world.
We were created by God to live with Him forever in a new world without sin, without sickness, and without death. No more fears, no more losses, and no more tears.
The trials of this present life serve to make us homesick for the life to come.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day.
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see
O Thou, who changest not, abide with me!
Rejoice, believer! God is on His throne and the best is yet to come!
As the father of five children, you might think I have some profound insights into the parenting and disciplining of children. But I’m actually on a steep learning-curve myself.
Over the years, I’ve seen the failing results of some self-styled “parenting experts,” and have decided to never put myself in the humiliating position of being a discredited expert in that area.
Instead, I’ve decided to embrace the position of fellow-struggler with other struggling parents in this fallen world.
Real life has a way of knocking our parenting delusions off of their pedestals… and that’s a good thing.
It reminds me of the Scottish minister who had six children. He said when he was a single man, he had six theories on how to raise children; but once he had a family of his own, he had six children and no theories.
In the middle of the messiness, the chaos, and the noise of daily life, I’m convinced that parenting and fatherhood are far beyond my own abilities. And that’s an understatement!
Parenting is beyond my personal and natural abilities. I need the Lord to do this. I need the Lord in every aspect of parenting.
While the challenge of raising godly children is beyond our human abilities, parenting itself is not unsuited for us, nor are we for it. The exact opposite is true.
God has given us the very children we have according to His good and perfect design. It is God who made us the parents of this child or these children with all of their problems, fears, sinfulness, and disabilities that challenge our faith as we walk with God.
Because I’m a father, I have regular discipleship and evangelistic opportunities right in my own home.
Because I’m a father, I have the built-in accountability of matching my words with my actions and attitudes every day.
Because I’m a father, I live with the consequences of my parenting decisions – and those choices have an immediate impact on the management of our home.
The reason parenting hurts is because we fail in it in multiple ways. Sometimes I have put my face into my hands and just wept over my failures as a parent.
Parenting is not supposed to make us feel comfortable. It’s not meant to enhance our self-fulfillment. Rather, God is growing our faith through the daily struggles of parenting.
We are being forced to depend more and more on Christ. We are being taught to forsake the sinful ways and methods of the world and to prepare our children for eternity.
But appearances can be deceiving. Not everyone who is smiling and looking clean on the surface is living that way in private.
Thirty-one years ago, now-disgraced comedian Bill Cosby had a book attributed to him called “Fatherhood.” It was a light-hearted survey of the humor involved in being a dad.
Today, Bill Cosby’s sad debacle reminds all of us that parenting and fatherhood have much more to do with what happens in our hearts before God – and behind closed doors – than about what the public sees on the surface.
As our nation celebrates another Father’s Day, I want to encourage all of the dads (and moms) who privately struggle with the challenge of raising kids in a fallen world. The parenting battle really begins in our own hearts.
Although God’s purpose for us as parents is not always pleasant, it is always good for us in Christ.
Ultimately, the parenting task should bring us to our knees and draw us closer to our Savior in this fleeting vapor called life.