The apostle Paul prayed three times for God to remove a "thorn in the flesh" from him. God answered, "No." Only then was Paul blessed with the realization of the sufficiency of God's grace and that the power of God is most fully revealed as He works through "weakness." Paul found contentment and reason to praise God because God said, "No."
Think of the blessings so many have missed out on when they tried to get around God's blessed, "No." The Rich Young Ruler was a religious person who served God comfortably on his terms. But the comfort of religion was leaving him dry and hollow. He came to Jesus because he was missing something. Jesus offered him fulfillment and an abundant life, but he would have to accept God's "No" to the idols of religion and affluence. He turned away from God's blessed "No" and missed out on eternal life (Luke 18:18-34).
I know from experience that God's "No" is better than my sought after "Yes" any day. I know that when I look at my youngest son Stephen. Now he’s a strong athletic strapping young man on his way to college. But when Stephen was born he wouldn't have survived unless God had answered "No" to some of my prayers.
Thirty two weeks into my wife's pregnancy, doctor's estimated Stephen to be over five pounds. He was a large baby and we were told he would probably arrive two weeks early. My wife and I were glad for this since Stephen's size made for an especially uncomfortable pregnancy.
As the due date approached, week after week passed without the delivery of our big bundle of joy. We began to pray, "Where's Stephen Lord?" And, "Lord, please bring him out soon . . . . Lord, have mercy!"
The due date came and passed with no Stephen, just a huge mound in the middle of my wife's body. One night after praying, a friend commented, "There must be a reason for Stephen's delay. God is saying 'No' for a purpose."
Stephen Jeffrey Stauffer was finally born by natural child birth on April 13th, 1993. He was one week late. My wife will confirm he was a BIG, BIG boy at ten pounds and one ounce! Not only was he big, but he was born with a congenital heart defect called Transposition of the Two Greater Arteries. This condition occurs when the pulmonary and aorta arteries of the heart are crossed in such a way as to prevent oxygenation by the blood to the body. This is a potentially fatal condition.
The corrective open heart surgery is nicknamed a "Switch." The switch was successfully performed on Stephen during his fourth day of life. After Stephen's near perfect recovery, doctor's told us that Stephen was one of the largest babies upon which they had ever done such an operation. The commented, his large heart definitely helped him! A larger baby is easier for the surgeon to work on. You see, an infant's heart is only the size of a walnut! His larger bodyweight gave him the strength he needed to recuperate as rapidly as he did.
Why did God say "No" when we prayed for him to be born? Because God wanted to give Stephen additional time in the womb to build his strength for the ordeal before him. Our perspective was limited. Not even the sonograms done on my wife prior to Stephen's birth showed such a heart condition. God's perspective was perfect! All we could finally say was, "Thank You Lord for Your blessed 'No' to our prayers for an early delivery."
God's providence did not end there. When Stephen's condition was in the initial stages of being diagnosed, we were told his problem was due to either a viral infection or a defect of his heart. To a layman, an "infection" sounded far less serious than anything with the word "defect" attached to it. So that's how we prayed, "Lord, please let Stephen have an infection and not a defect in his heart." But God said "No" to all those prayers. Later we were more completely informed that had Stephen had an infection in his heart it may have created an irreparable condition. If God had given in to our plea Stephen may have been permanently, possibly fatally flawed. All we could say later was, "Thank You again Lord for Your blessed 'No.'"
Stephen's switch was originally scheduled to be done at a local Long Island, New York hospital. However, just prior to consenting to perform the operation, the local surgeon "observed" what he believed to be "a fly in the ointment." A detailed examination of Stephen's heart appeared to show additional holes in the lower ventricles (i.e. chambers) of his heart. The local surgeon wasn't sure he could handle such a condition. The alternative was for Stephen to be transferred to Boston Children's Hospital. Going to Boston meant being separated from our two young children then aged three and four years old. To us this meant further disruption to our family. So we prayed, "Lord, please let the local surgeon be able to do Stephen's surgery." But you know what? The local surgeon decided Stephen needed "clam shell clamps" to close the holes he saw. Only Boston Children's Hospital could perform such an operation at the time. Again God said "No." Stephen, my wie Dee and I were flown via air ambulance to Boston where his condition could be repaired.
Why did God see it necessary for us to be further disrupted? Why had He said, "No"? We later discovered that our local hospital had performed only twelve switch operations in it's history and the last one performed was over a year and a half earlier. Boston Children's Hospital has a history of literally hundreds of such operations and a switch at Boston Children's Hospital is as close to a routine operation as you could expect! God was providing experienced surgeons for Stephen.
God's hand in this was confirmed to us when we were briefed by the operating surgeon in Boston. He asked why we had been sent to Boston. We explained about the additional holes that had been detected by the local surgeon. He paused, and then said, "Mr. and Mrs. Stauffer, I have reviewed the films of your son's heart and I see shadows but no additional holes in your son's lower ventricles." My wife and I looked at each other with a look of puzzlement. Then together we saw the pieces fit together. God had a plan to repair Stephen's heart, and He was seeing that he got the best of care. Either God healed those holes or the local surgeon was mistaken. Nevertheless, all we could say was, "Thank You Lord for Your blessed 'No.'"
God knew my son's need and He knew where it could best be met. God is in control. Today and throughout his childhood Stephen has been an incredible picture of health. Stephen's annual checkups with the pediatric cardiologist served as regular reminders of God's provision as each year the doctor confirmed our son's good health. Sometimes God says "No" to our pleas. Stephen is alive today because of God's mercy and grace. Stephen is alive today because of God's blessed "No."
When I look back over my circumstances, I see four reason for God giving a blessed "No" to a prayer request. First, God says "no" to our prayer request because he has something better for us. God knows what is best for us. He sees life from a heavenly perspective. He has a divine purpose and plan for our lives and he is working to implement it (Jeremiah 29:11-14).
Secondly, God says "no" to teach us about ourselves. The way we respond to God's "No" reveals volumes about our spiritual condition. Will we react in the flesh (i.e. rebellion, human understanding) or endure in the Spirit (Galatians 5)? My wife and I found that God's grace is sufficient to keep one walking in the Spirit even in the most trying of times (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Thirdly, God says "no" to protect us and our loved ones. Like a little child who ventures into dangerous activities and is told "No" by their parent, God protects us. A child may see razor blades as shiny interesting toys, but a parent knows better. Wall sockets, sharp objects, and moving mechanical parts all fascinate young children exploring their new world. The temptation is there to "touch me." But a parent intervenes to protect the unknowing child. God does the same for us. We often foolishly think our way is the only way or the best way. But the Bible and experience reveal that just isn't the case.
Lastly, God says "no" to build our faith. As we learn that God's way is the best way, the only way, our faith in God is matured and built up. Each time we are brought through a situation and look back to see how God has preserved us, we experience Him as more credible, more faithful, more trustworthy and this fuels our faith for the next test.
So the next time you pray for something and God's answer is "No," don't be discouraged or disappointed. Just remember, God is good, God is loving, God is in control and God's blessed "No" is far better than any sought after "Yes." Accept that, because the spiritual and physical lives of you and your loved ones may depend on it!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean no on your own understanding; in all you ways acknowledge Him,and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)