Easter weekend, I was hit again with family loss. Four days later, in the space of five minutes, two more big “no’s” rocked me.
First: I was sure I’d paid enough estimated taxes … but no. In fact, my accountant said I owed a painfully large amount of federal taxes. After a lengthy Zoom call and line-by-line review of my returns with him, I was convinced he’d done his job. But I panicked. How could I ever make ends meet by being self-employed and limited in the work I could do?
Second: In the past six weeks, God had clearly said “yes” twice to a deeply personal endeavor. I was more excited about it than anything I could remember being excited about in the last ten years. It aligned with Scripture and long-voiced heart cries to God. Then came the “no.”
That gut punch buckled my knees. I cried, “God, my head says to thank You for this ‘no,’ but my heart doesn’t mean it yet. In Your sovereign wisdom, You allowed this to happen. But I don’t get it. It’s crushing me. Show me Your greater ‘yes’ in all this.”
I wish I could tell you that clouds parted and a James Earl Jones-ish voice spoke wisdom and comfort into my soul. Nope, didn’t happen.
Have you seen the movie A Greater Yes? It’s the true story of Amy Newhouse. She got a glimpse of God’s greater “yes” in the midst of life’s biggest “no.” I wish I could say I reacted to my “no’s” like Amy did. Instead, I reacted like her family and friends initially did.
Saying the right things and believing God can’t fast-forward us through the now of “no.”
The problem with “no”
A part of us may not want to hear that God has something better in mind for us. Like Abraham, we may grow weary of waiting on His promises. Like Samson, we may despair of trusting God to move on our behalf. Like Job, we may fear another shoe will drop.
Robert Morgan said life will beat up even the most upbeat Christian. When that happens, clichés and bumper-sticker mottos don’t help. Bandages alone don’t heal.
When “now” equals “no” (and “know”?)
No. The word grates on our souls. Humanly speaking, it means settling for “less.” Indefinitely. How do we make peace with that? How do we rise above it without feeling like a failure or discarded goods?
Ever notice how “no” is part of “now” and “know”? Maybe God did that on purpose.
I don’t have all the answers, but here’s what I know:
- False optimism doesn’t glorify God.
God made us with emotions. It would be abnormal to not grieve loss, not cry in pain, not feel despair. When optimism flees but we endure in faith anyway, we serve Christianity, the world, and God. Think of the prophet Jeremiah. King David. William Tyndale. Amy Carmichael. Corrie ten Boom. Countless others.
- We need to sit with our suffering long enough to invite God to enter into it.
When we meet Him there, His presence and promises become real in an uncommon way.
- We don’t need to like our circumstances, but we do need to learn in God’s crucible.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 does not say to give thanks for every circumstance. It says to give thanks in every circumstance—literally, in the state where it operates.
In Matthew 11:29, Jesus says when we shoulder our side of His yoke, He will teach us important things. The verse lists the top three: meekness (God’s strength under control), lowliness (dependence on God rather than self), and rest. Rest for our soul—our God-breathed identity.
- We can’t grow faith by our own effort.
We must ask God to increase our faith through each circumstance.
- Life’s outcomes are in God’s hands.
Our job is simple: to sow seeds of faith in darkness and trust God will grow them in His light.
In God’s darkroom, negatives become positives. Joseph’s slavery becomes Egypt’s salvation. Haman’s decree becomes the Hebrews’ defense. And Good Friday becomes Easter. When we remain God’s vessels through the “now” of our “no.”
Father God, this is impossible to do without You. Uphold us when life’s “no’s” crush us. Empower our faith. May it always speak louder than any present darkness. In Your powerful Name, amen.
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