Yesterday, I listened to an online sermon from James MacDonald’s series “Always True.”
He is teaching about the fact that God has given us many “great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4) and that we can rely on those eternal promises even more than we rely on the things that we can see.
The title of this particular message was “God Is Always Good: I Will Not Despair.”
James said something in the midst of that sermon that has had a life-changing effect on me.
“Every ‘no’ from God is a mercy.”
Those words hit me like a ton of bricks.
Recently in my life, I have been dealing with what seems to be a very long, drawn-out NO from Jesus.
It is mysterious and completely baffling to me. The thing that I am asking Him for is very reasonable, something He commends in His Word as beneficial. Nothing extravagant, nothing self-aggrandizing, nothing harmful or bad.
Yet, He still says no.
At this point, it is almost comical the number of doors He has closed. At least, it would be comical if it wasn’t heartbreaking to me.
Recently, a praise was shared during our church service about someone being granted the very thing for which I have been asking for so earnestly. I was completely unprepared for the tears that immediately sprung to my eyes and the shocking, unexpected feeling of devastation in my heart.
I kept my head down and opened my Bible, determined to keep the tears from spilling over and running down my face. “Jesus, where are You?”
My soul cried out for the One, who by His actions, seemed like an enemy intent on continuing to cruelly slam doors in my face; but in reality was my closest, dearest and most tender-hearted Friend.
And of course, I found Him where He always is: in the pages of His Word, that very Word that became flesh over 2000 years ago (John 1:14).
And I found His Spirit one with mine as He spoke to my hurting heart through the healing balm of that Word.
I will never stop doing good to you. —Jeremiah 32:40
I speak tenderly to you. —Hosea 2:14
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. —Jeremiah 31:3
I know what I am doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. —Jeremiah 29:11
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. —Isaiah 55:8-9
With those tender words of comfort also came a warning:
You shall have no other gods before Me. —Exodus 20:3
How easy it is to let our desires — even for good things — become bigger than our love for our Savior, who IS our life and our greatest Gift.
That is a one way ticket to heartbreak and I don’t want to go there. It reduces our one precious life to a furnace-like desert existence where our thirst isn’t quenched … even though the well of crystal clear Living Water is within our reach. We stubbornly want to drink from our own well, which contains the polluted and empty promises of ultimate satisfaction in this fallen world.
In recent years, Jesus has used His Word, as well as various sermons and books, to open my eyes to the amazing beauty and sheer depth of the Gospel.
He has already and forever taken care of my greatest need (forgiveness for my sin). He came to rescue me when I could not rescue myself. In that moment, He gave me all of Himself … which is everything I will ever need.
Jesus + Nothing = Everything.
Not only that, He also promises to provide every other thing I need in this life (Romans 8:32). It is those times when what I don’t have looms larger than all the gifts Jesus has given me that I head into dangerous waters.
Yet what to do with the hurt feelings and bewilderment that rise up in a heart when the closed doors and unanswered prayers continue with no end in sight?
Remember that every no from Him is a MERCY.
In the Hebrew, the word mercy means: “compassion and tender love.”
In His perfect love, His “no” is bestowed with the utmost compassion and most tender love.
Yes, that involves being willing to live with mystery. I can’t see how these no’s are a mercy in the midst of my pain and confusion. With my (extremely limited) knowledge, a yes would make everything so much better.
Yet His knowledge is perfect. He sees the big picture I cannot see and I must yield to His wisdom rather than clinging to mine.
So that is my choice: magnify the pain OR magnify what I KNOW to be true of God’s character as revealed in His Word.
His Word (and my life experience of walking with Him for so many years) has proven that He is faithful, kind, good and sovereign. His ways — and His timing — are perfect.
Knowing this and trusting His heart is what keeps me going. That, and the promise He has given me concerning this season in my life.
He has done this many times before. Just before a difficult season gets underway, He gives me a promise from His Word and invites me to believe Him for it.
Of course, I would like to claim the promise on Monday and see it fulfilled on Tuesday … but that never happens. Often, the time between the promise and the fulfillment is months, if not years. Sometimes all looks lost and circumstances mock that promise. Yet, I cling to Him and His promise … and He is ALWAYS proven faithful. And in that clinging, I am transformed and my love for Jesus grows deeper.
I was given just such a reminder last night when I showed up at our church to watch David Platt’s “Follow Me” simulcast from an undisclosed location in the Middle East. The day had been a rough one and I was tired. My spirits were low.
No sooner had the crowd gathered when we were told via video that due to technical difficulties the simulcast was rescheduled for the following week.
Our pastor then took the opportunity to share a short devotional and when he read the Scripture passage, I nearly fell out of my seat.
(The psalmist is speaking to God here):
Remember fervently the promise to Your servant in which You have caused me to hope. This is my comfort and consolation in my affliction; that Your Word has revived me and given me life. —Psalms 119:49-50
“Remember My promise to you,” He whispered. “Your hope is ALWAYS in Me.”
A smile broke across my face as the power of His Word did indeed revive my flagging spirits. I will not despair. I will not give up. I will not lose hope. No matter how long it takes.
One day the “yes” will come.
His Word never returns void and His mercies are new every morning.
Even when He says no.
“One of the greatest moments in eternity will be the day God peels back the space-time curtain and unveils His sovereignty by connecting the divine dots between our prayers and His answers … and when God finally reveals His strange and mysterious ways, it will drop us to our knees in worship. We will thank Him for the prayers He did answer. We’ll also thank Him for the prayers He didn’t answer because we’ll finally understand why. And we’ll thank Him for the answered prayers we weren’t even aware of.” –Mark Batterson