When God says no

Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
test my heart and my mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
and I walk in your faithfulness.
— Psalm 26:2-4

A wise friend and I were sharing hearts over coffee the other day, and I asked how she was navigating a difficult situation so gracefully; she said, I just try to trust Jesus and be faithful in my little corner. Such simple words, but they challenged me deeply. You see, I’m in a similar situation that I have prayed and prayed to be released from, but God has answered with a firm, No.

As I’ve pondered God’s no over the last several months, I’ve considered how strange it is to receive this definitive no and to live in a state of permanent discomfort and disappointment. As Americans in a consumerist culture, we are used to taking charge, voicing our opinions, and changing our circumstances if we don’t like something—we change jobs, change homes, change relationships, change churches, change schools. If we pause to consider how we can be contributing to something outside ourselves, the sacrifice only lasts as long as we are getting something out of it—once things get tough, we tend to look for an out.

Or maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m just used to moving on when things get hard/sad/ugly. To be clear, I’m not in a dangerous situation, just a painful one. Thank goodness I’m not in a position in which I’m praying for deliverance, just a way out. I’m tired and feel alone and my heart hurts and I cry a lot and…Shucks, when I type it out like that, it seems so clear—it’s just the kind of situation that God uses to draw his children close to him and to mature our understanding of his character and his love for us. I know in my head that hard things are the ways God does this. Happy situations do not bring lasting change in our hearts. Without revealing our need for God, we will never call out to him.

In fact, I regularly pray that God would draw me closer to him; here he is doing just that, and instead, I’m grumbling and wishing that life weren’t so hard. What would it look like to turn to God in trust? To ask to be faithful rather than just muddling along? Is this situation an answer to my prayers?

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
— Lamentations 3:22-24

When I take my son to kindergarten, I pray for him on the way to school each morning, and our prayer starts, Thank you for this new day, that your mercies are new every morning, and that your faithfulness is great. Part of my prayer is that God’s love will be the most real thing to him, that no matter how he feels that day—anxious, shy, scared, angry, whatever!—that God’s love will overwhelm all of that and be the most real thing to his heart. How easy it is to pray these things for my 5 year old, and how difficult it is to pray them for myself and believe that God’s mercies are new for me and that God’s love for me could be the most real thing in my mind throughout the day.

What would it mean to believe God’s love for me, to believe that his purposes are always redemptive, and to believe that he has purpose for me where I am? What would it mean to lean into him as he draws near to me? What would it look like to find reasons for gratitude and thank God in this situation, choosing joy instead of resentment? What would it mean to thrive and not just survive? What would it look like to put bitterness aside in favor of being life-giving and faithful?

I don’t know what God is doing in this situation. I am hurting, uncomfortable, and frustrated. The one thing I do know is that Jesus loves me. My 4 year old can tell me that. Jesus loves me! And because Jesus loves me, I can trust him. If I can trust him, perhaps I can take steps to be faithful to him, knowing that I am wrapped in his love, which is never-ending, never-fading, bigger than I can imagine. Which means, friend, that his love for you is never-ending, never-fading, and bigger than you can imagine.

What situation do you find yourself feeling trapped in? In what ways do you think God is asking you to be faithful in your own little corner? Do you believe that his love for you is bigger than you can imagine? If you are struggling to trust God’s love for you, I encourage you to find a Bible verse to cling to and meditate over and pray every day, asking God to convince you of his deep love. Friend, he delights to love you.