When God Says No

What happens if I pray for a miracle but God doesn’t show up and do it?

I recently received an email from a woman struggling with how to pray expectantly for a healthy baby while facing genetic odds to the contrary. Her fearful questions reminded me of a time years ago when I faced similar circumstances, stuck between the rock of unbelief and the hard place of disappointment.

Sometimes we feel stuck between the rock of unbelief and the hard place of disappointment.

God had been teaching me much about faith, calling me to higher levels of prayer and expectation. I had been reticent to claim things of Him that He had not clearly promised, but at the same time His Spirit was convicting me to ask more of Him. As I slowly began to do so, I was amazed to see Him show up and do things that I never would have expected. Miraculous healings. Sudden changes of heart. My faith was growing in leaps and bounds, and I wanted that to continue.

So when I found out that I was expecting a child, I recognized another opportunity for my faith to grow. My joy over this new gift of life was mixed with fear that, like the three who had gone before her, she would die in utero. Each doctor’s appointment confirmed my fear as her development began to fall off the charts. I was tempted to resign myself to the inevitable, to protect myself from the crushing weight of disappointment by not holding out hope that God would work a miracle. At the same time, I wanted to live by faith, not fear. So I kept wrestling in prayer, begging my Heavenly Father to spare her life. I clung to the truth that He loved me and that nothing was impossible for Him.

God said no to His only Son.

When I lost the baby, I almost lost my faith. God had told me to ask, so I asked. Then He said no. I felt betrayed. My faith in His goodness was shattered. Where could I go from here?

Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
John 11:41-44

I was not alone in this experience. Jesus had walked this path ahead of me. He had approached God in faith, asking Him to do the impossible and watching Him answer with incredible miracles. He had related to God with the boldness of a child, confident in God’s fatherly love that would hear and respond to His requests.

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba”, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Mark 14:35-36

But when Jesus begged God to spare His life, God said no. Jesus had put His faith on the line, wrestling with God in prayer in the garden, refusing to resign Himself to the inevitable. He clung to the truth that God loved Him and that nothing was impossible for Him.

“He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ”
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “”Eloi, Eloi,” “lama” “sabachthani?””–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Matthew 27:43, 46

And yet at the end of the day, Jesus found Himself strung out on a cross, fighting a losing battle for breath, and crying out His feeling of abandonment by God. He had trusted His Father. Through prayer and supplication He had made His request known to God, but God hadn’t granted it. Where could He go from here?

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Luke 23:46

In an ultimate act of faith, Jesus went right back to God. He laid His Spirit in His Father’s hands, trusting in His unfailing love despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And His Father didn’t fail Him. He let Him down as far as the grave, but He held His body intact through the agonizing wait for the third day’s dawn. Then He said yes.

God’s love is powerful enough to accomplish a “yes,” strong enough to hold us through a “no.”

As I teetered on the brink of losing my faith, I, too, reached out to God in a final act of desperation. I placed the last shredded remains of my faith into His hands, begging Him to hold onto it for me because I had no strength left to hold into it myself. And God didn’t fail me, either. He held my faith intact through the death of another dream and the long wait for hope’s resurrection.

On the other side of healings and deaths, high hopes and devastating disappointment, the confidence that I can claim as I boldly ask God for a miracle is His Fatherly love: powerful enough to accomplish a “yes,” strong enough to hold me through a “no.”

6 thoughts on “When God Says No”

  1. In our adult Sunday School class yesterday, we talked about trusting God during the hard times. My dad very accurately commented that we usually don’t struggle with believing God CAN work a miracle, but with believing that He WILL. We know God has the ability. We just don’t know whether He will choose to do so or not. And it’s hard sometimes to give up our own wishes and submit to “Thy will be done.” But looking back, whenever I have received a “no”, (including my miscarriage), I have grown in my faith.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly, Angie. I still struggle with wanting to know if God wants to do something before I invest too much emotion into praying for it. How can we believe that He will do something if He hasn’t said He would? On the the other hand, He does seem to say that He will do whatever we ask Him. I’m still not sure how to put all that together. Nevertheless, He has told us to ask, so that is what I do, even if it is a risky business.

      Thanks for your testimony of increased faith through the trial of a “no.” I mourn the loss of your little one, even as I rejoice in God’s faithfulness to sustain you through it.

  2. To put it in context though, He does say that if we ask anything according to His will, He will grant it. However, we don’t always know what His will is. So we still need to pray and ask in faith, but I think it’s with a faith that says, “I fully believe You CAN do this. Please do so if it is within Your will.” I choose to look at our loss this way: God’s will was to create that beautiful little person. And He chose to honor us by allowing me to be the one to carry that baby for several months. But His ultimate will was that the purpose of this little life was to glorify Him in Heaven, not on earth. So I am confident that my little one is fulfilling her purpose as she spends her days singing praises to her Creator. But it did take me a while to get to that point. Death is hard, no matter how strong your faith is.

    1. You do a beautiful job of holding onto multiple tensions, one of which is bold, expectant asking and reverent, submissive accepting. This is what I see in Jesus prayer in the garden, especially as interpreted by Hebrews 5:7-9

      During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…

      You also do a beautiful job, Angie, of acknowledging the bitter pain of death while also honoring the One whom you clearly love more than life.

  3. I believe that if God says ‘No’ to our begging and pleading prayers, we will receive over and over again better blessings. I find myself daily pleading with the Lord not to test me as I know I would fail. I note that God’s most treasured were tested hard and pulled through stronger. That is a saint I suppose. God Bless all those who have lost babies and children. To keep believing shows a remarkable love for God. x

    1. But the fact that you keep going back to Him and placing yourself (and your wee ones) in His hands is evidence that you, too, are a saint. You know the risk involved, but you love Him anyway. There is something “unearthly” in that, and He has and will bless you for it.

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