What to do when God says No

Around this time of year, we are inundated with tips and tricks from experts, gurus, and influencers about how to live better, do better, BE better. We are encouraged to look at our lives and our selves and determine what we want to change. We look in the mirror and all of our body issues seem to surface: we make a list of all that we wish was different about ourselves. We look at our circumstances and wish we had more skills, more opportunities, less difficulty and discomfort.

But what if we are powerless to change what we want to change?

What to do when God says No

There was a girl named Amy who lived a long time ago in Ireland. Amy had brown hair and brown eyes but all her friends had fair hair and blue eyes. She wished she had blue eyes so she could be beautiful like her friends. Amy came from a Christian family and her devout mother had always told her that God is faithful to answer our prayers. Amy took her mother at her word, and that night she prayed with all her heart that God would make her eyes blue.

In the morning, she rushed to the mirror and wailed in disappointment to see that her eyes were still brown. Her mother tried to comfort her, explaining that “No” was an answer too. She explained that God must have a good reason for her brown eyes, even if they might never know it.

As Amy grew up, she developed a heart for missions and felt God’s call on her life for full time mission work. She moved to India and learned that temple children – young girls – were dedicated to the gods and forced into prostitution to earn money for temple priests. Amy dressed in a sari so she could pass as a Hindu to visit these temples. In doing so, she rescued many children from this awful fate – a rescue operation she would not have been able to pull off with blue eyes!

It suddenly became very clear why God had not answered her earnest prayer all those years ago in the way that she had wanted. God had bigger plans for Amy Carmichael – plans to use her to bring rescue and hope in a different part of his world!

what to do when God says no

We are made for a purpose

We, too, are made for a purpose. God wants to use us to further his kingdom. We bring our experiences, our strengths, our interests, our talents to the table when we decide to follow Jesus. Each of us is unique, able to reflect God’s glory in a way others can’t. Sometimes the very things we wish we could change about ourselves are the things God will use for his good purposes. Even our painful, broken parts can be redeemed and used by God.

It takes wisdom to discern what we can and cannot change about ourselves and our lives. There are circumstances over which we may have no control, situations in which we are powerless. These are the things we bring to God in prayer, asking for a miracle, laying all of our honest feelings at his feet – our anxiety, our disappointment, our fear, our sorrow, our pain.

When we don’t get the outcome we were hoping for, let’s be brave enough to ask God to use our pain for his kingdom purposes. Let’s continue to trust him even when things don’t make sense. Let’s have faith that one day, we will have our own moment of aha-hindsight where we can look back and see what all the hard parts were for – even if that moment comes on the other side of heaven.

And above all, let us cling to the One who made us and loves us, who never promised us an easy life, but who promised us his presence.

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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