For years I have struggled with an unanswered prayer. Or maybe that’s my answer.
Sometimes I overlook the obvious. That is, sometimes the answer to my prayer is “no.” It isn’t easy for me to let go of certain desires, and I am tempted to keep asking God for the same thing over and over after God has given me what appears to be a resounding “no.” A challenge for me is distinguishing when God is telling me “no” and when God is telling me “not yet.” The bigger challenge for me appears to be accepting a “no” answer when I hear it.
In Mark Batterson’s book Whispers: How to Hear the Voice of God, Batterson writes, “We often think that when God closes a door, that is His final answer. We put a period where God puts a comma. We think it’s a no, but it’s really a not yet. Is it easy discerning between the two? Not at all. It’s hard to know when to hang on to a dream and when to let go. But here’s the rule of thumb: If you sense God is saying no, give that dream back to Him with an open hand. That often takes more courage than hanging on. But if God’s hasn’t released you, then keep hanging on.” The trick is not to let your desires drown out God’s voice when you hear it and not hanging on after you suspect God has said “no.”
I don’t know if what I have been praying for over the past few years has been answered with a final “no” or if it is simply a “not yet.” I suspect it’s a “no.” No amount of praying seems to change the outcome. It’s time for me to hand this particular dream back to God and move on. If it turns out that God’s answer was a “not yet” instead of a no, then God will find a way to surprise me. I’ll have lost nothing. If my suspicion is correct that God has said “no,” then I must move on and redirect my desires. I must trust that God has something better in mind and I must not miss out on the adventure.
Living with God is an adventure. When we lose sight of that, we lose out on the fun. When we stop being surprised by God’s dreams for us, it may be a sign we’ve closed our minds. That’s because God’s dreams for us are often so much bigger than our own and take us down paths we might otherwise never have imagined. In order to take us down one path, however, God often has to remove us from the path we are on.
When God says no, the unknown of what comes next can be scary. Terrifying even, but in the way that a roller coaster is terrifying I suppose. We’ll live through it, and if we trust that we are safe in God ‘s hands we can enjoy the ride.
It’s time for me to accept the possibility that God has answered my prayers with a definitive no, and wait for something else to stir my desires. In fact, the time for me to do that is long-overdue. I have been stuck prioritizing my vision over God’s with a closed mind. Perhaps God will one day surprise me with a “it’s time now” when I least expect it. If not, I’ve opened my mind to the reality that something awaits me that is better suited to the path God wants me to follow. Something that I will recognize if I only open my heart to it. But one thing is for certain: I will not get to where God wants me to go now by standing in front of a door that God has closed to me. Nor will I see the other doors that God has opened in front of me if I am continually looking backwards.
I’m tired of standing in front of a closed door. Frankly, I am feeling a bit foolish for standing here so long. I’m looking forward to discovering what God has planned for me. With God’s grace, I will have the patience to find the door His key will open — and the courage and wisdom to walk through it.
In the meantime, I’m delighted to have consciously rejoined God’s adventure. With God’s help, I’m going to enjoy the ride.