One friend told us about the time she and her husband came close to moving to Chicago for a new job. All the signs had pointed in the right direction, she said. All the doors had opened…except the last one.
Another friend talked about a ghost writing opportunity he’d declined. The book had gone on to the New York Times bestseller list, sold a million copies. It had been the chance of a lifetime, and he’d been so close. But it hadn’t happened.
Around the dinner table that night we talked about the times when God says no.
We clearly understand when he says no to bad plans — sinful, half-baked, selfish, cockamamie plans. But the good, God-minded plans? We assume that if our intentions are pure and we’ve been “good,” that it will all work out. That if we are patient and faithful, he will eventually say yes.
Except that sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes God closes the door. And it doesn’t always make sense. Not while it’s happening. Sometimes not even a long while later.
In this week’s reading from 2 Samuel 7, God ultimately says yes to David…but only after he says no to something David deeply desires.
The story opens with David in his prime. Life is going well: he’s now king; settled into a sumptuous palace, well-rested and content. And suddenly it occurs to him that while he’s living the good life, God’s out there housed in a crummy, dilapidated tent. So David decides to rectify this unfair situation. He decides to build a temple, a new house, to make things right with God.
And God’s response is basically this (my paraphrase):
“So you think you’re the one to build me a house to live in, do you? I haven’t lived in a house from the day I brought Israel out of Egypt. I’ve been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. And you know what? That’s been just fine by me.” (2 Samuel 7:5-6)
Basically, God tells it straight: If I wanted a cedar house, I would have asked for a cedar house. I’ve got other plans for you. Sometimes, no matter how perfect our plan looks, no matter how well we think it’s aligned with God, it’s not what God wants. And so, like he did with David’s plans for building the temple, he says no. And then, like David, we have two choices. We can fight God, and push and pull and demand that the plan unfolds as we see fit. Or we can acquiesce. We can hand the plan back to God and say, I have faith.
We didn’t reach any radical conclusions that night around the dinner table as the candle wicks burned out and the smoke wisped toward the chandelier. Our talk eventually turned to other topics until finally we stood up, stretched and carried our plates to the kitchen sink. But I’m still thinking about that conversation a year later, and I have this to add:
It’s true, sometimes God says no. And we may not like it or agree. But we trust that even in his no, there is a yes, waiting to be revealed.
Has God ever said no to one of your plans? If so, were you able to see how a yes was eventually revealed? Or are you still waiting?
A little note: today is my friend Jenn LeBow’s last Mercy Monday link-up – the prompt is “What Mercy Means to Me Now.” Got a story? Stop by Jenn’s place and link up!
: : Welcome to the “Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday” community, a place where we share what we are hearing from God and his Word.
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