When God Says “No”

Autumn Jones - Mother Angelica


Have you ever prayed really hard about a decision – perhaps one involving a new job or a new relationship – and you were absolutely certain that God would answer your prayer in a specific way? You would get the job, the guy or girl, the promotion or the recognition for work well done. But you didn’t.

Have you experienced the hope for a love returned only to have it rejected? Or perhaps you were the lead candidate in a job search, but the company picked someone else? How about being nominated for an award or scholarship, but, nope, this wasn’t your lucky day?

A while back my parish priest reminded us that sometimes it is in the moments when God does not answer our prayers exactly the way we expect, greater consolation and grace is truly present. As it says in Jeremiah 29:11, God knows well the plans He has for us, “…plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” Yet, amidst trial and tribulation do we trust that?

For me, it is a great challenge to trust God in those often-painful moments when my prayers are not answered the way I expect them to be. Does He know my pain? Does He know how bad I want this? Does He really get it?

Of course He does. In that moment, however, it can feel like He is miles away.

The other night, a friend told me a story of being in a dark place. He broke up with his girlfriend. He was at the lowest of lows. He reached out to a friend for support and the friend didn’t know what to do. His friend prayed and prayed about it, wanting to help him through the pain. The next week, the friend brought him a stack of books; each carefully selected to help him heal in a specific way. Each book proved precisely what he needed to read.

When my friend reached out for help, he wasn’t asking for a library list. God knew and, through prayer, his friend knew that this was exactly what he needed. Conceivably not what my friend wanted or, more specifically, what he prayed for, but something far greater, something given by God to heal his hurts, something he truly needed.

Countless stories from friends and family members share the same message: I kept asking for ‘A,’ but God knew what I really needed was ‘B.’ And, boy was it frustrating!

Ultimately, “B” brought far greater joy and understanding than what was expected from “A.” God heard their want, but he saw their need. That is the consolation and grace our Heavenly Father provides.

If you make a decision through prayer, with every intention of following God’s will, and trusting that this is something he is calling you to, trust him. If it doesn’t work out the way you envisioned it, trust Him again.

You are a holy man or woman precisely because you trusted Him. You discerned that this is something He wanted you to do, and you took action in hopes of being in greater service of Him.

You applied for that new job. You shared your love with another human being. You went after a new goal that you felt He was calling you toward. There is beauty and profound holiness in the very act of trusting Him with your discernment and your action.

When the answer is “No” and your heart is hurting, be patient. Return to prayer. Put your life in His hands and cry out with resounding confidence, “God, I trust in you. I trust that you know far better than I do what is best for me. I resolve to draw ever closer to you in your Holy Presence in the Eucharist, and in the depth of your mercy in my heart.”

Perhaps the next time He presents you with a “No,” “Not yet,” “Maybe,” or “Just wait,” He is really saying, “Trust me… follow me…For you know not the plans I have for you…” His plans, after all, are far more magnificent than we could ever imagine.

\”When you accept God\’s will in every aspect of your life, you will find God providing you with strength, courage and a dignity that resounds to the heavens. It resounds to the heavens because it doesn\’t have far to go. Heaven, you see, is suddenly in your heart\” – Mother Angelica

© 2013. Autumn Jones. All Rights Reserved.

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13 thoughts on “When God Says “No””

  1. Pingback: Pastoral Sharings: "Who do you say that I am?" | St. John

  2. Phil Steinacker

    I believe God never says “No” to our prayers. Rather, His answer is one of these three possibilities:

    Not now.
    I’ve got something better.

    When we don’t receive the first answer we are consoled that it is either of the other two.

    1. Phil,

      I believe that when we ask for something from an imaginary god, we are setting things in motion within the workings of our very complicated brain. We hold a concept of the supernatural in our brain which increases our self-confidence. Our positive attitude can lead to incredible results which we take as evidence that our prayers have been answered. At least, that’s what I believe happens.

    2. Well, only if one adds heaven to the equation, but I’m pretty sure the author is writing about the here and now. Mothers’ prayers do get an answer of “No” and children do get sick and die. The “not now” and “something better” is often in heaven only.

  3. Everything you write is true, but your examples are too easy!
    It is very, very difficult to pray patiently and trust confidently when the “No” is chronic illness for a child ~ to realize that God’s plans include suffering children; that His “B” plan has a son or daughter die. Some of us live with the “No” every single minute of every single day.
    Until heaven.

    1. If I could be so bold as to say “(stuff) happens”. If there is a plan to the creation and development of the universe to arrive at intelligent beings like ourselves, it is not so detailed a plan that it covers who exactly lives or dies. I’m not even sure it covers what specific planets contain the conditions for what kind of life. We wouldn’t even have evolved into humans had an asteroid not wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. They were the dominant life form up to then.

    2. “Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the
      ground without your Father knowing.”

      I give you credit for being neither abusive nor a poseur, as is too often the case in comboxes. Still, I don’t think it’s the perspective most readers are coming here for. The above is more our tune.

    3. I think that people need to be cognizant of the utter randomness of life and not think that there is an entity controlling everything. That is so obvious that I shouldn’t even have to tell you that. But apparently I do.

  4. Autumn,

    I was an on and off Catholic for 60 years. When I was on, I was really on and when I was off, I was really off. I became an atheist a couple of years ago, but I have since come to see myself as a deist. That is because I believe in the controversial concept known as intelligent design. Atheists don’t believe in ID mainly because they see it as repackaged creationism. I would call the designer God, as the Masons call God the Grand Architect, but that would cause me to have to sift out all of the falsehoods about this God that are found in the Catholic faith. What I am trying to say is that the Catholic God is not the God that you are looking for. You should keep looking or just admit that there is no God and call the designer “Nature” or “Universe” or something like that.

    1. Well hello there, stranger. 😉 It seems you are partly addressing all of us. I for one am not offended by your unsolicited advice, provocative though it may seem, if it is motivated by genuine concern. However, you know that equally intelligent people have come to a different conclusion. Perhaps this is the time and place to respect that…given that it’s Catholic (as opposed to ‘questioning’ or ‘uncertain’) Stand (!) and it’s not really adding to the discussion of the topic at hand.

    2. Sorry,

      I was just trying to provide a different perspective to a blog that looks like it could use one. There are intelligent minds on both sides of the issue and it is worth discussing. One thing I’ve found about Catholics is that they need to open up to other worldviews.

  5. Pingback: Darwin Direct Descendant Finds Beauty of Catholicism - BigPulpit.com

  6. Pingback: When God Says “No” - CATHOLIC FEAST - Every day is a Celebration

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