When God has Answered “No”

I go out for coffee. A lot. I am there at least once a week and often more than that. I like meeting with people. Even though I am an introvert. I like catching up with people I don’t see that often in an atmosphere where I can actually think. In other words, not at home. There are too many kids making too much noise to get a word in edgewise there. Much less having a coherent thought. A coffee meeting often has more benefits than a high-calorie, caffeine-laden beverage. A visit over coffee will quite often plant the seed of a blog in my mind.

This time I was meeting a friend who I have known for more than a decade. We know each other pretty well after being in Mom’s group together. Then Bible study. Truth be told, she was my inspiration to start attending Bible study and I’m pretty sure I went to my first one with her. Then we encouraged each other as we went on Missions trips. I answer her cooking questions. She answers my faith questions. We have gone through crisis together (mostly mine) and our kids have gone from babysitting each other to friendship. I called her the night that Arlynne died. She was one of the people who came to our home. Immediately. Needless to say, we have done a lot of life together.

We were catching up again after a very busy season in her life when she shifted the conversation. She had a question for me. She actually gave me a blog topic. It went something like “How do you approach God again after He has said ‘no’ in the past?”. It was a question about faith. About trust. About moving forward with God after less-than-ideal circumstances. Or pain. Or sorrow. How can I trust God when I have been disappointed in the past?

I would probably qualify as one of those people who have had a “no” answer from God. The night that Arlynne died a group of people gathered and started praying for her life to be restored. They prayed that she would rise from the dead. They were praying for a miracle.

I believe in miracles. The Bible is full of them. We just don’t see as many anymore. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t happen. I serve the same God from the Bible. The same God who parted the Red Sea. The same God who provided enough food for 5000 men with 2 loaves of bread and 5 fish. The same God who raised Lazarus from the dead. The one who raised Jesus, His son. God didn’t change. All you have to do is look outside of mainstream, North Americanized Christianity and you may start seeing some miracles. Just read the book “Mega Shift” by James Rutz. His book tells of amazing things that are happening in a number of different countries. Like China. Africa. South America. And they are happening now.

I know a couple of pastors who are conducting meetings in North America where people are experiencing healings and other amazing miraculous exhibitions of the Holy Spirit. God is moving in almost unbelievable ways. These supernatural occurrences are not the norm. But why shouldn’t they be? Have we adopted a faith that is too limited? Are we too calloused? Too complacent? Too comfortable?

Arlynne did not come back to life the night she had the ATV accident. Some people might say that I would be justified in being mad at God. He clearly said “No” to those believers who prayed that Arlynne would be restored. Someone might wonder if I come to God any differently. If my prayers are different because God has not given me what I wanted in the past. And, trust me, I wanted my daughter alive. I still do.

Trusting God comes down to 2 things for me. They are separate but equally important. The first is that God loves me. Yes, it sounds easy. Too easy. Growing up in a Christian home, I have heard this my whole life. Starting in the nursery when someone sang “Jesus loves Me” to me. I have known that God and Jesus love me since I was a child. And I believe it. At least intellectually. My head knows. Part of the problem of being raised in a Christian home is that there isn’t often an “AHA” moment when God’s love becomes clearly evident. I was not blinded on the road to Damascus like Saul. I didn’t have a God-encounter when I was at the end of my rope, at the bottom of a bottle or on either end of a gun. My conversion, the day of my Salvation, when I first asked Jesus to “come into my heart” I was a child and I wanted to be sure I went to Heaven. Simple as that.

But God does love me. He loves me enough to know how many hairs are on my head (Luke 12:7). He loves me enough to rejoice over me with singing (Zephaniah 3:17). He loves me enough to send His Son to die for me (John 3:16). He sees me. He knows me because He created me. He knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). He may not like my sin but He will always love me. He promised so that cannot change.

And Jesus loves me. He loved me enough to die for me. To suffer at the hand of man and the rejection of His Father. To offer Himself as a substitute for me. For my sin. It is amazing.

If I wasn’t so sure that God loved me, I would have a really hard time with the second part of trusting God. It isn’t about me. It is about Him. It is about His glory.

Even though I have been in Christian circles my whole life and a Christian for over 30 years of it, this is a hard thing for me to grasp. I am self-centred. That is the way every human being is. I was born that way. Waiting for others to feed me, change me, burp me. And lots of us are still like that. We have to look after ourselves since no one else will. It is all about me.

But that isn’t how it is with God. With God it is all about Him. He doesn’t do things for me in my life so that it is easier for me. He does things so that I will be different. He doesn’t bless me just to bless me. He blesses me so that He will be revealed, to me and to those around me. He does what He does to expand His kingdom. His family.

If I believed that this world was only about God without believing that He loved me, I would feel like an ant. A little, insignificant bug who God was just waiting to stomp on. I would question the whole purpose of life. I would wonder why I am even here. But He does love me. He comes in and doesn’t always change things the way I want them because He has a different purpose. A plan. Maybe so that those around me may see Him through me. I try to pray that every morning. That He will be revealed through me. And that gives me purpose. Significance. Faith.

Another friend asked me how I have changed because Arlynne went to Heaven. I can hardly imagine how much. I had a plan when she left on her summer mission. I was going to find a job in the fall. I had already put the twins on the waiting list for childcare at the school. Arlynne was going to pick them up on her way home from school. Karissa was starting university. It was going to be a big change with 5 of our 6 kids starting a new school that fall. We knew where we were going. And I knew what I was going to do. I was going to start helping to provide for this family.

Lots of things changed after Arlynne died. Karissa was still on the same path. Arlynne’s death seemed (stress the seemed) like the tiniest blip on her trajectory. Hardly detectable. It was completely the opposite for me. Everything changed. I didn’t go to work that fall. I changed the twins class so they went to school in the afternoon and they didn’t go to daycare. We were with different people than we thought. We were in a different situation than we could have possibly imagined. We were just different. I was different. I am different.

I couldn’t have imagined having to bury one of my kids 4 years ago. I couldn’t have imagined speaking to the whole student body at her school. Asking the students where they would be if they died today, or tomorrow or next week. Would their mother be able to stand up and say that she knew where they were now. If he or she died as suddenly as Arlynne had. I couldn’t have imagined travelling up north and spending a week with the same kids she taught a year before. Her last week on this earth. I couldn’t have imagined appearing on a Christian television program about a couple coming up along side another couple after each lost a child. I couldn’t have imagined writing a blog 4 years ago. I couldn’t have imagined pouring my heart out for anyone to see. I don’t think I could have. If God hadn’t changed me. If He hadn’t taken Arlynne home that night. Taken her to Heaven.

Arlynne going to Heaven wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about my comfort or my happiness. It was a display of God’s glory. It was an opportunity for God to be revealed, both through Arlynne’s life as others talked about her, but also through me. Don’t get me wrong. I am not perfect. Sometimes God isn’t revealed as well as He is other times. But He is. He has to be. Because the part of me that is left, the part that still can go on, is all Him. I’m not strong enough to do it without Him.

Can I still come to God the same way now as I did before He took Arlynne to Heaven? I could live in fear. Without faith. I could stifle my kids’ spirits by locking them in their rooms so they won’t like Arlynne did. I could stop talking to God. Stop trusting Him. I could even blame Him. Blame Him for letting Arlynne die that night. But I don’t do that. I can’t. I have to trust. I have to have the faith to keep looking to Him. He didn’t promise me an easy ride. He didn’t promise that I would always be happy. But He promised that He would always be here. And He is. And, slowly but surely, He is changing me into a woman after His own heart. And I’m letting Him.