Trillia Newbell|10:00 PM CT

If God Says No

Independent, ambitious, and adventurous, that's George Bailey. He was a dreamer with goals---many goals. But as life goes sometimes, his plans would never be fulfilled. Instead of traveling the world he got married, inherited a bank with an unconventional business model, stayed in the town where he grew up and met his wife, and began raising his four kids. When a mistake threatened his livelihood, George contemplated suicide.

But thankfully for George, an angel saved him by giving him a glimpse of what life would be like if he were not around. Life without George was dismal. The town was practically destroyed.

We know the ending to this story, It's a Wonderful Life. George begs to return to his normal life, gets his wish, and proclaims his steadfast and renewed love for his wife, kids, and the people of Bedford Falls.

Not What We Envisioned

Life doesn't always turn out the way we envisioned, does it? Our hopes and dreams may never come to pass. Wishes and desires for good things, like children, work, or a spouse, are delayed---perhaps even for a lifetime. Maybe you have been praying for something and God continues to say no, and this hope deferred, like the proverb says, has made your heart sick (Proverbs 13:12).

Unlike the fictional tale It's a Wonderful Life, we don't get a glimpse what could have been. We don't even get a hint. I'm not going to tell you that life is wonderful. It may actually be difficult. But here's what I do know: "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).

One day we will see God in glory and know his purposes. We will "get it." We will understand why children were delayed and why we were never healed. But until then we see dimly, as if through a thick fog. We walk by faith and not by sight. And though our plans are many, the Lord directs our steps where we do not see (Proverbs 16:9).

Waiting, Longing

This year may be filled with "no's." It may be another year of unanswered prayers, of waiting, of longing. It may be another year of pain and sorrow. But God is not only holy, majestic, and just. He is "our Father in heaven" (Matthew 6:9). He is our near, intimate, involved, loving Father. Because he is our Father we can continue to ask and pray. Because he is near, because he has given us "the Spirit of his Son," our hearts can cry, "Abba! Father!" (Galatians 4:4-6)

God our Father is perfectly loving. He is guiding, directing, protecting, and laying down boundary lines for our good and his glory. He is leading us through the joys and the sorrows (Lamentations 3:37-38, 1 Timothy 6:15). These lines aren't about our present state but what it will lead to---a beautiful inheritance (Psalm 16:6).

Give and Take

And we know we can trust God because he showed his infinite love for us when he sent his only Son to Calvary. Jesus wasn't walking through fog. He knew exactly where he was headed, and he endured it to the end. As a result of this sacrificial death, we know he is love. We can draw near to him in confidence. He beckons us to come, taste, and see that he is good (Psalm 34:6).

So we ask in 2013 with the assurance that the Lord is good, he is our Father, and he is loving. In the mystery of his providence the Lord gives and takes away. But with Job we will proclaim, "Blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21).

Trillia Newbell is a wife, mom, and writer who loves Jesus. She is the author of United: Captured by God's Vision for Diversity (Moody, 2014). You can follow her on Twitter.

Categories: Testimony
  • Charles Thornton

    Hey, thanks so much for this post. I just stumbled across it as I was perusing TGC, and as I started to read Time by Pink Floyd came on in the background - perfect!

    This post addresses things I've been struggling with a lot recently. I so eagerly long for certain blessings from the Lord that I forget he has already blessed me with all spiritual riches in heavenly places and, like you say, I have a beautiful inheritance.

    My struggle is made more difficult because I see brothers and sisters around me being blessed so abundantly and I feel "left out". Envy and disdain arises in my heart.
    But then the Spirit enters, convicts me for my sin, and I fall down in worship and awe of the God who could love and rescue a wretch like me.

  • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com Steve Cornell

    Thank you for the good reminders. I thought about a passage from J. I. Packer:

    “The God of whom it was said, ‘He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms’ (Is. 40:11), is very gentle with very young Christians, just as mothers are with very young babies. Often the start of their Christian career is marked by great emotional joy, striking providences, remarkable answers to prayer and immediate fruitfulness in their first acts of witness; thus God encourages them and establishes them in ‘the life.’”

    “But as they grow stronger, and are able to bear more, he exercises them in a tougher school. He exposes them to as much testing by the pressure of opposed and discouraging influences as they are able to bear — not more (see the promise, 1 Cor. 10:13), but equally not less (see the admonition, Acts 14:22). Thus he builds our character, strengthens our faith, and prepares us to help others. Thus he crystallizes our sense of values. Thus he glorifies himself in our lives, making his strength perfect in our weakness. There is nothing unnatural, therefore, in an increase of temptations, conflicts and pressures as the Christian goes on with God — indeed, something would be wrong if it did not happen” (p. 246, Knowing God).

    For a few more thoughts from Packer, see: "Does God want us to feel that our way through life is tough and perplexing?"

    • Rachel

      Thanks for sharing this! It's good to read an "explanation" of how God uses hardship or delayed answers ("Wait, child, and trust Me") for good, to be reminded that He is still very close when circumstances whisper that He's far away. Even when He is refining us in the fire, He doesn't stop holding our hands and smiling on us through Christ. Help us believe and rejoice in this, Abba.

  • http://www.housewifetheologian.com Aimee Byrd

    Great article, Trillia. For readers who want to read more on this topic, I recommend Dave Harvey's book, Rescuing Ambition.

  • Anon

    But God might say yes.

  • Craig H Robinson


  • louise young

    God's decisions are as full of wisdom as the oceans are with water

  • Travis Maples

    Great reminder Trill, very applicable too.