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I had been gathering "life research" for almost sixty years. I'd journalled, written blog posts, and stored up experiences and lessons in my mind, all the while asking God, "Is it time, yet?" To which He'd whisper to my heart, "Not yet."
So, when I got this undeniable nudge, from God, in the early months of 2020 to begin writing the book which had been churning around inside me, this thoroughbred hit the dirt running as if the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby had suddenly been thrown open.
COVID-19 hit and I buckled down even more - almost glad to have more time to write without distraction. I was blessed to participate in an awesome but grueling book proposal bootcamp. For months, I forgot to eat meals and the hours flew by as I hunkered down writing words I was certain God ordained for me to write.
I'd dreamed of being a writer since I was a little girl and here, just before my 60th birthday, it was going to come true. Except it didn't. Ultimately, seven writers' proposals were chosen for potential publication. Mine wasn't one of them.
"Why, God?" I whined. That's not fair I thought to myself. I'd sacrificed a lot and had put many important relationships on "hold" to pursue what I was certain was God's calling. It made no sense. Why would God call me to it only to just say, "No?"
When God says, "No," our reaction is to think He's not being fair.
As my dad used to say, "Fair is where you go to get cotton candy." (grumble, grumble)
If I was a writer for a magazine and my editor asked me to write a story for the upcoming edition then told me she wasn't going to print it, I would be justified in saying, "That's not fair."
But, God is not my employer and I'm not His employee. He is my Father and I am His child and that changes things dramatically. Sometimes Fatherly love and wisdom together equal a "no." I need only remember times Ive said "no" to my children - not because I wanted to steal there joy but because I saw the bigger picture. Perhaps I was protecting them from something, or perhaps my "no" was leading to an even more important "yes." I knew better because I was the parent.
As God's children we don't get everything we ask for because we don't really know what's best for us.
Here are a few categories in which God says, "No.":
1. Sin: God will always say "no" to sin. We're not just talking about the "big" sins like murder, stealing, or adultery. Actually sin is sin and it's the more insidious sins like jealousy, pride, anger, or wrong attitudes that trip us up. It's not a sin to experience anger, but if I lash out at my husband because of how I feel, that's sin. Or, if someone wrongs me and I harbor unforgiveness because I feel justified in clinging to my grudge, I'm sinning.
God gives us the guardrails of His Word. When we obey and stay within their confines we experience joy.
When God says, "No" to our sin, He is fighting for our ultimate joy.
2. Comfort: God often says, "No" to our comfort. We are to make ourselves "living sacrifices" according to God's Word (Romans 12:1). I admit I have tried to wiggle off the sacrificial altar a time or ten. When I have to choose between my comfort or dying to my comfort, it's not fun. God is asking whether I will choose self or am I willing to dye to self? Sacrifice is not comfortable.
I can relay many stories about experiencing anything but comfort. If given a choice, I imagine few of us would choose pain and suffering over comfort and happiness. Hindsight is 20/20. When I look back over those times, it is clear God was in the process of humbling me or transforming me. In Luke 9:23 we are encouraged to take up our cross: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Taking up our cross will not be comfortable.
We won't experience true Life unless we die to self.
3. Dreams: God will occassionally say, "No" to dreams. When this happens, like it did to me, we want to shout, "Why?" - especially if we feel we are in line with His will. This is when we have to embrace perhaps the hardest challenge - to look beyond the "WHY" and focus on the "WHO" saying, "No."
Why? = Focus on me. Who? = Focus on God.
When I focus on what I don't get, I've forgotten about what I have already received.
I have received the very best "YES" - my salvation which I did not deserve.
I deserved death, but God said, "NO" to death and "YES" to life for me.
Jesus, literally sweating blood, begged His Father to be spared from the cup of a tortuous death on the cross and God gave a "no" that forever changed the world. We can measure God's compassion by the cross - the seizmic "no" that threw open wide the gates of heaven for us.
God doesn't need to explain Himself to me. Perhaps I need to embrace the answer I didn't want because it is leading to joy beyond my wildest imagination. Or maybe, I need to embrace the "no" because I am being transformed into Christ's image and He accepted the greatest "no" that was ever given...for me.
Dear Heavenly Father, You have given me so many blessings. Enable me to accept the "no's" graciously. I praise you I have an eternal "yes" because Jesus accepted the greatest "no" in order to save me. Teach me to respond as Jesus did, "Not my will, but Yours be done." Let me dwell in your Word so that I may be obedient in obeying your commands and run from sin. Help me not to value my comfort too greatly and be willing to serve others by sacrificing my time, talent, and treasure. I acknowledge your "no" may be paving the way to a greater "yes." But, even if not, let me humbly accept your sovereignty, mystery, and unfathomable goodness, even when my dream is not answered in the affirmative. Let me lean into the "Who" and forget the "Why?" It is in the precious name of Jesus I pray, Amen.
What about you...has God ever said "no" to you? What was your reaction? Was God trying to protect you? Transform you? Humble you? Do you ever squirm under the call to be a living sacrifice? Any lessons you've learned that you'd care to share?
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