Please, Father, help me publish this book? Please, will You send me a husband? Heal him, Father. Please? Lord, will You keep me from sinning? Will You restore their marriage? Will You reconcile this church? Will You sell this house? Will You make Your presence known in this pain? 

Often, when I’ve prayed over the really big concerns in my life, God has said, “no.” Friends comfort me by saying perhaps it’s just a “maybe” or “wait.” Maybe. Often, though, I understand clearly that God is saying “no.”

Where does a person go when the creator of the universe says “no”? The only answer is to run, not walk, right back to Him and find comfort in those arms that seemed to be pushing away just minutes ago. They’re not pushing; they’re reaching. When God says “no” it’s for our good.

Sometimes, though, when God has to say “no” too many times in a row it’s easier to quit asking. The threat of another disappointment feels too big. My faith feels like it needs a “yes” to survive, and there’s no guarantee.  Cancer brought me to that place. My diagnosis came after a summer of “no’s.” During those days of surgeries and chemotherapy and hospital stays and nausea, I continued to speak with the Lord; I felt his presence and was comforted by his love. I was reminded again and again that even his “no’s” were for my good and not my harm. But I stopped asking.

When I quit asking, others took up the mantle. Friends and family cried out for my healing and comfort; they asked the Lord for my restoration and sanity; they petitioned the almighty for things like blood counts and CT scans. And the Lord has been saying, “Yes” to them for the past two and a half years. Two of my little friends, both now six years old, each prayed during dinner and at bed time that my bald head would one day be covered with long, dark, curly hair. And though I had always had fine, light hair, it came back dark and curly, and after months became long again. Jesus said “Yes” to these children.

And during it all, a years long prayer of mine to one day travel to East Asia was picked up and dusted off and presented to the Lord by a friend who shared a similar passion, though she had been there herself many times. She prayed that one day I might be able to travel with her to this faraway land, bringing a flicker of the light of Jesus into places of darkness. And though there’s an expired passport to renew and vaccinations to receive and money to raise and plane tickets to buy between here and there, God seems to be saying “yes” to her.

And in saying “yes” to all of them, he has said it over and over to me, “yes, yes, yes!”

Though I often experience God in the context of “no,” leaning into Him through disappointments and heartaches and breaches of faith, lately, I am drawing near to Jesus through the exuberance of “yes!” And finding once again, my voice to ask.

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 1:20

holy experience

I am writing in community with Ann Voskamp and friends today, exploring our experiences with God, and answering the question, “How have you recently experienced God in your life?” To see how others answered, click on the graphic above for a list of links.