What to Do When God Says “No”

Have you ever longed for something? Maybe it was a job, a relationship, children, or a specific school. Most of the time these things that we want are not bad things, they are actually good things. We pray and seek the Lord and request for the Lord to give us our desires with the intention that they would glorify Him. We are eager and excited as we wait for that “yes” moment. But what happens if God says no? What happens if you get the email back from your dream job saying, “thank you for applying, but we are going a different way.” Or what if you get denied to your dream school or you get the devasting news that you cannot bear children? How will you respond? How will you move forward? This question is crucial in the Christian’s fight for joy.

 I think if we are being honest, we have all been in this position where our desire is met with a “no” from God. I have been there. What I thought was good and would be God-honoring was quickly met with a closed door and a sharp “no”. It stung. To be completely honest, it hurt badly. It frustrated me and caused me to ask, “why God?” This situation also humbled me. The thing is, God’s “no” is always part of the inner-workings of His sovereign plan. We must ask ourselves then, “how should we respond when God says no?”

Rejoice and praise God

During this pandemic time, I have been going through the Psalms in my personal devotion time. The theme of rejoicing and praising God is a constant throughout the book. When we read and dive into the Psalms (as well as other books in the Bible), we see the immediate response of rejoicing and giving of praise to God. No matter the situation, no matter the answer, we praise God. This response should be constant no matter what the answer is. 

Psalms 63:3-4 says this “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.” If you are familiar with the book of Psalms, you know that the authors did not have the easiest of times. They faced military battles, personal issues, relationship problems, and more. Yet, throughout the Psalms we see the psalmists remind themselves of God’s steadfast love and praise Him for who He is. They recognize that God is the creator of all things and is sovereign over everything. So, despite their situation, they chose to praise God rather than doubt God. We must do the same. 

Pray always

God is not a God of confusion. He is constant and never changing. God’s plan will glorify Himself and His plan is always good. Whether we understand at the moment of receiving the “no” or not, we can take comfort in the promise that it will glorify God. Paul said, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen (Rom. 11:36).” We read that all things work together for the good of those that love God (Rom. 8:28), but we must also understand that God causes all things to work together for His glory. 

God will get the glory. In Matthew, we are reminded to pray and ask God for the things we desire. We are told to seek the Lord for wisdom and guidance. Often, we misinterpret this thinking that if we pray enough for something that God will give us what we want, but that is not the case. Instead, when we are constant in praying and seeking God, our desires will begin to align with His will. He will change our desires to fit His will. Ultimately, being in constant communication with Him will make that “no” even easier to receive. We know that the answer received is in line with God’s will. This is in fact, the purpose of prayer. John Stott once said, “The purpose of prayer is never to bend God’s will to ours, but always to bend our will to His.” Let’s remember that as we seek Him for guidance.  

Remind yourself of the Gospel 

A lot of times when I get a hard “no” from God, my initial response is frustration rather than praise. In my flesh I don’t want to praise God, but I must make it a habit to do so.  My human mind cannot fully understand God’s sovereign plan because I don’t know what the next day will bring. However, God does. We know in Ephesians 1 that before the foundation of the world He knew us and adopted us as His own. We know from Genesis 3 that when sin entered the world God already had a plan to come and redeem the world. While we do not know the end result of our situation, we serve the one who does. This should bring us comfort and a thankfulness for the truths found in the Gospel. 

A “no” from God should bring us to His feet in worship, praise, and dependence. We are dependent beings in need of our Savior. We are just a small part of God’s redemptive plan and so, when our eyes are on Christ and we truly seek to glorify Him, it’s then that we can “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances…(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18a).” Friends, I pray that when you receive a “no” from God that you can find joy in that moment, that you can trust His sovereign plan, and know that even when it doesn’t make sense, God’s plan is better than our own. 

Soli Deo Gloria,

Courtney Chambers

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