I truly believed that if I believed enough, prayed enough, obeyed enough, trusted enough… if I was enough… that God would answer my most heartfelt prayers. That He would heal my big sister. That she would be well.
And then she died.
She was healed – she was home, whole, and no longer in pain. But I didn’t see it that way at nine. I felt betrayed, crushed, disillusioned and confused. God can do anything – so why didn’t He answer my prayers? I believed He would, I had faith – why did He ignore my most intimate desire? Why did He tell me ‘no’?
My confusion turned to anger. I stayed angry for a long, long time. Decades, in fact. Then, in His mercy, the Lord broke my heart, and I turned to Him.
* * *
When my youngest was five, he asked to go to the innermost regions of the Congo. He wanted to share the Gospel – and look for dinosaurs – and he wanted to leave the following week. In all my parental wisdom, I said ‘no’. The next week was not the time for our family to go to the Congo.
He was willing to compromise – he’d go without rice milk for a year (to save money), if we would take him the following summer. Again, the answer was ‘no’. I could see further than my boy. I had reasons for my answer that didn’t concern his precious little heart.
He felt betrayed. Crushed. Disillusioned. Confused.
* * *
It’s been years since the death of my sister. The Lord has graciously answered so many of my prayers in over-the-top, demonstrable ways that could only come from Him.
Like a parent rebuking a child headed into the street, He has also told me ‘no’ numerous times. He’s allowed me pain, so that He could bring healing. I’ve read the book of Job, read the writings of Paul, scoured the Word to find the reason for ‘no’. I have come to understand:
“I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!” Job 1:21
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” Romans 5:3-5
“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:6,7
“And we know that God causes everything causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” Romans 8:28
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but we are not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10
“Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
Sometimes God allows painful things in our lives for a purpose. God is sovereign, He loves us, and He wants the best for us. Yet, just as I answered my son with ‘no’ when he decided to visit the Congo, just as I tell my kids ‘no’ when they want to ride their bikes across a busy street, sometimes God says ‘no’ to His children. Just like my son, I find myself mourning. Feeling betrayed. Crushed. Disillusioned. Confused.
I found myself feeling that way several weeks ago. The Lord has allowed me to carry a burden. I remind myself that in a fallen world, life is imperfect. I remind myself that my job here is to glorify the Lord, regardless of the burden. I am to rejoice in my struggles, cling to Christ, and love my neighbors. I am to allow Him to make my burden light.
Yet, I long for the burden to be removed. I ask Him to sustain me, but I also ask Him to remove my burden – if it’s His will. I submit to His will, yet I continue to long for His hand, for a clear answer.
It was during a recent crisis that I found myself once again longing for renewal. I found myself asking for relief; for healing. It was then that it occured to me that perhaps His answer is ‘no’. Perhaps this burden I carry will only be removed in the next life, when I stand before the King of the Universe. I felt betrayed. Crushed. Disillusioned. Confused.
So, I go again to those things I’ve learned from Scripture. I remember that the King of the Universe hung willingly on a cross to cleanse me of the sin that separates me from Him. I turn to Him for comfort. This time, rather than shake my fist in His face, I bury my head in His chest. I am beloved. Strengthened. Comforted. Purposed.
What good is my burden? I have no idea; I see no eternal value. Yet, I do know that I am kinder, humbler, more loving, quicker to turn to Jesus, more intentional, driven to Scripture more often. Will Christ remove my burden in this lifetime? I do not know. I do know that He loves me, that He died for me, that He rose again. I do know that He has removed the burden of my sin – cast it from me as far as the East is from the West. I know that His grace is sufficient. He is enough. That doesn’t make me angry; it gives me cause for joy.
We all have times when our Heavenly Father tells us ‘no’, sometimes for reasons we are unable to discern. Do you have a burden you’re bearing? Have you asked God to remove the burden, and are you worried that His answer is ‘no’? How do you deal with the times God tells you ‘no’? Do you find the Scriptures above to be reassuring? Are there other verses you cling to? How do you help your children walk through their own grief?