When God Says ”No”

I have a friend who is going through the last months of a decades-long marriage that has dissolved. Her husband has left the family for another one, and she has prayed fervently over the last several months that God would change her husband’s heart. His heart has not changed.

She told me last week that she feels that God isn’t listening to her. I kindly responded that perhaps it is she who isn’t listening to God. I don’t believe there is ever a time when God doesn’t hear our prayers, though it certainly can feel that way when we don’t get the answer we are desperate to receive.

When disappointment, illness, tragedy, or hardship comes, do we ever lose our enthusiasm for God? Do we ever feel rejected by him when we don’t get the answers we want?

Proverbs 3 brings us into the heart of the matter. We are not to lean on our own understanding when things happen, but rather trust in the Lord with ALL our heart:

Proverbs 3 (New International Version)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Sometimes, God will say “No” to our prayers. 

But remember this: sometimes God’s “No” is not a rejection,  but a redirection.
Sometimes God’s “No” is not a punishment, but a preparation. 
There are times when God’s “No” will bring greater glory to his kingdom.
And God’s “No” can start us on an adventure with him.

One thing is sure … God is more interested in our character than our comfort, and that is often reflected in his response to our prayers.

God even said “No” to Paul when he asked for his “thorn to be removed,” and then gave him special grace to carry on. And pretty much everything Christians know about grace comes from the letters of Paul.

So can we find comfort in God’s wisdom when he says “No”? Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But we can try to live into God’s grace, knowing that he always works for our good, and always listens to us when we reach out to him. Always.

So in all your discouragement and disappointment, submit to God, and he will make your path straight…straight back into his arms.

Heart Tree by Kathy Schumacher

A Sign from God

We were sitting outside by the hotel pool on an unusually chilly Florida day. I had wrapped myself in a beach towel for warmth and was watching kids running around the pool and going up and down the water slide. Surely these children were from Minnesota. It was way too chilly to actually be WET out here.

As my husband and I chatted (my teeth were slightly chattering,) a plane flew overhead and began to write something in the sky. Our hotel was located between Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, so I figured the message would be something akin to “Surrender, Dorothy.” Imagine my surprise when the words “TRUST JESUS” appeared. Why yes, don’t mind if I do!

I had been worrying over a retreat that I am leading in a few days. We couldn’t find a curriculum we liked, so the organizer asked me if I could write something. Let me pause here and say if any of you are aware that I have been asked to do such a thing in the future, please slap me upside the head until I say no.

But since none of you were there to slap me, I said yes, and have been diligently writing, planning, and dreaming away ever since. This job is so much bigger than I am. How should the timing of each session go? Do I have enough interaction planned? How much music? Is there a good balance of quiet reflection and table-talking? Should we do a craft? What craft?

It will probably amuse you to know that the subject they wanted me to focus on is WORRY. At least my firsthand knowledge of the subject will give me that authentic voice we all long to hear when we go to a retreat. I have worried, fretted, lost sleep, changed direction, talked incessantly to my running partners about it….oy vey.

This morning I discovered that my sermon for the final worship session (which I finished on the plane on the way to Florida) has somehow managed to go missing in cyber space, and the last two-thirds did not get saved.

Trust Jesus, indeed.

Proverbs 3 (New International Version)

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

So what do you have going on right now? Where is God calling you to stop leaning on YOUR understanding, and submit to him? What are you holding back because you don’t actually trust him?

This scripture is calling you to trust in the Lord with ALL your heart. Not just for the little things, parsing out simple tasks to him, but with EVERYTHING. Your home, your life, your marriage, your health, your kids…your unfinished retreat sermon.

When I need reminded of this the most is when I think I am in control, or that I can solve my own problems. I hurry ahead, plow through, push on, and forget that God, in HIS understanding, has already worked it out without me.

And so the lost sermon was re-written. I don’t know if I wrote the same thing, or took it in a totally new direction, but I do know this: it was God’s work all along.

So too will he come into your situation and work it out for your good. Just trust, and obey.

Let This be a Sign Unto You…


Consider the history of the necktie. Legionnaires in the 2nd century B.C. wore the first neckwear, according to some historians. Their cloth bands were worn as protection from the weather. Other people cite the 3rd century B.C. terra-cotta statues of Chinese warriors as the first evidence of neckties. They wore neck scarves to protect the source of their strength, i.e. their Adam’s apples.

Most experts, however, date the initial appearance of what led to the modern tie back to 1636. Croatian mercenaries hired by King Louis XIV wore cloth bands around their necks to ward off natural elements and sword slashes.

Today, however, men don’t need to protect themselves from weather, assaults to their Adam’s apples, and hopefully not sword slashes. So why the tie? Most men find them uncomfortable and bothersome. Loosening the tie is often the first thing a fellow does the minute he leaves the office. I mean, even the word neck-tie sounds restrictive.

Neckties are a means of uniformity. Imagine the workplace of the 1960’s without men in neckties. Imagine the church of the 1990’s without men in neckties. Uniformity was the goal, and neckties were the instrument that tied it all together. Blessed be the tie that binds? Not when it is tied around the neck!

Thank God we are over that.

Ties, hats, gloves, and heels have faded away as mandatory “Sunday morning best.” Society has accepted the fact that it is so much more important to show up than to show off.

So with neckties out, what should we wear around our necks?

Proverbs 3 New Living Translation (NLT)

3  My child, never forget the things I have taught you.

    Store my commands in your heart.

2  If you do this, you will live many years,

    and your life will be satisfying.

3  Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!

    Tie them around your neck as a reminder.

    Write them deep within your heart.

4  Then you will find favor with both God and people,

    and you will earn a good reputation.

Loyalty and kindness. The perfect neckwear for any occasion! This type of necktie will help you find favor with God and people alike. When we tie the things God has taught us around our necks, we will have a satisfying life and a good reputation. Now that’s a necktie everyone should have in their closet.

I once had a conversation with a teenager about church clothes. Michael was the son of the school bus driver and never attended church. I knew him from the High School marching band, where I volunteered as a chaperone and band announcer. All the kids knew me, but most didn’t know I am a pastor. Michael had spent the weekend at Taylor’s house, and when they awoke on Sunday morning, Taylor’s mom called them to breakfast and told them what time to be ready for church.

When Michael arrived, he looked around at all the people dressed up for church, and all the men wearing ties. He found me and immediately came up to me. “Miss Betsy, I am so sorry to be wearing my band t-shirt and jeans in your church,” he said. “I spent the night at Taylor’s house and my Mom didn’t know we would be coming to church.”

I looked him in the eye and asked, “Michael, are you in a church?” He replied, “Yes, M’am.” I said, “And are you wearing clothes?” He laughed and said, “Yes, M’am.” “Then you’re obviously wearing church clothes, so have a seat.”

The Gospel is a message of freedom, not restriction. Church is a place of harmony, not uniformity. Come on in and find a seat! We’re just glad you’re here. There is no dress code in God’s house. In my church at the beach, the acolytes wear flip flops and the pastor never wears a tie. Got clothes? Come on in.

This leash is as close to a necktie as I’ll ever get.