Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

When no is actually a better yes

I prayed long and hard. I petitioned, I pleaded. I confessed all my sins; I think I may even have made up some additional ones to confess, just for good measure. I quoted Scripture to subtly remind God what He’d said previously on the topic. I believed for it with clenched teeth. I rallied others to do the same on my behalf. I rebuked the enemy and claimed the promises. But I didn’t get what I wanted.


And, boy, am I glad. Because what I did get in due time was so much better I can’t even begin to compare the two. Sometimes I’ll quietly whisper, “Thank you, Lord, for not meeting my request!”


I wonder whether Salome may have felt the same way as she witnessed the crucifixion. The woman widely believed to be the mother of disciples James and John, and Jesus’ aunt, was part of the small group of followers who stood at a distance as He hung on the cross between two thieves.


Perhaps in the midst of her sorrow, the collapse of her hopes and dreams, she recalled a conversation with Jesuswhen she had asked that her sons be granted the place of privilege at His right and left. And maybe, even in her grief, as she looked to Jesus’ right and left, she was glad that her request had been turned down. Thankful.


In reality, God did more than just deny my appeal and Salome’s. We all know the saying that God’s three answers to prayer are yes, no, or wait (the latter more often than I am comfortable with, but there you go). But I have come to believe it’s not that simple, that God doesn’t just say no; He’s really saying yes to something else.


“No” is about absence, but God is presence. His no is not the full-point, but a comma on the way to a different, better yes. I remember once hearing a Bible teacher suggest that the “thou shalt nots” of the Ten Commandments are not so much the threat or warning that we often view them as (“If you want to know Me, you’d better not…”), as a promise or exhortation (“When you know Me, you won’t want to…”).


The tricky part, of course, is that in-between time before you begin to see the “yes” hidden in the “no.” For my part, I doubted and despaired, grumbled and groaned, moped and muttered. When I got a glimpse of the richer answer God was giving, I felt sure that He must have been pretty frustrated with me for carping all the time He was working on the best yes.


Then a friend suggested that He was more likely rubbing His hands with glee, thinking He couldn’t wait for me to see what He had in mind: the big reveal. I think she’s right.

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