It’s one of the most confusing challenges of life. It prompts the question, “Why?” At a minimum it’s frustrating; at maximum, angering. It can shake the foundations of our faith. However, it can also be one of the most faith-building experiences of our existence. It can draw us closer to God and deepen our relationship with him like no other experience can. It’s when God says, “No.”
God has opened the door of heaven to us and invited us to come into his presence and make requests of him (Phil. 4:6-7). We are taught by both scripture and experience that God often responds by graciously granting those requests (Matt. 7:11). But there are times when God denies our requests regardless of how often and/or earnestly we ask. What really tests our faith is when the request is urgent and seems so right. “Father, heal my child.” “God, please save my marriage.” When God’s answer to these questions is “no,” we can’t help but wonder why.
I’m convinced that it’s not possible for us to fully answer that question. While God has revealed some things that are germane to this issue, he has not spoken exhaustively. Therefore, I will not venture to speak for God where he hasn’t spoken. But I will, based on what God has said, offer one thought for your contemplation.
There is a big picture that we simply cannot see. But it is crystal clear to God. God knows “the end from the beginning” (Isa. 46:10) because “his understanding is infinite” (Psa. 147:5). Because we are assessing life and circumstances from a platform with a limited view while God sees everything, we must trust him with what can’t see or know.
When parents deny the requests of their children, especially when those children are very young, the children simply do not understand why those requests are not granted. Sometimes parents have no other option, due to the nature of the request, except to say, “I know you don’t understand, so you just have to trust me.” When a child receives a shot of medicine, it hurts. The child may wonder why Mom or Dad is holding him and allowing some stranger to inflict that pain. He may even say, “I don’t want a shot. Please don’t let them give it to me.” But Mom and Dad know that the temporary pain is for a greater good, and the child will come to realize that in the process of time and maturity.
Might it be the same with God? Isn’t it possible that God allows us to walk through the valleys of pain and sorrow, even the valley of death (Psa. 23:4), because he sees and knows what we do not see and cannot know? But even in those times, just like the parents above, he asks us to trust him while he holds us and comforts us through the valley (Psa. 46:1).
When we take God at his word, trust him fully, and lean on him for comfort and strength in our times of unspeakable sorrow, we will come through the valley stronger. It is when we are weakest that God shows himself to be the strongest (2 Cor. 12:9-10). I may not know why this or that happened, but I know who does. And I will hold tightly to him no matter what.