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Things That Happen When God Says "No"
(In the End It's Still Actually a "Yes!")

Written by Frances Garay

June 13, 2022

You’ve sought the Lord. You prayed enough. You stepped out in faith. 

But in the end, it was a “No” from God. 

You didn’t receive what you were praying for. You didn’t get that “Yes” you were expecting. You have to let go of that desire, that relationship, that opportunity. 

But in the midst of disappointment, confusion, and hurt in knowing God’s answer, we still know and believe that all things work out for the good, according to His promises (Romans 8:28). We still believe that the momentary pain we are experiencing is far greater than the glory that will be revealed to us one day (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). We still learn to trust God’s heart as our Heavenly Father who knows what’s best for us. (Matthew 7:11)

it took a while to be able to accept and completely surrender to God the things I can’t understand

However, I still get you. By faith and by His grace alone, we believe these promises. We want to believe. On the other hand, we can’t help but question what is going on. How come God still allowed this to happen if it wasn’t His will after all? 

It’s not an easy place to be in that limbo of confusion and pain. It may take a short time for other people to process and discover why not. For others, this becomes a test of faith, a daily struggle to surrender in humility to God’s sovereignty, and to confess to God to help our unbelief with His character and promises. If you’re the latter, welcome to the club. I have written this blog for you. I, too, have been in this struggle and it took a while to be able to accept and completely surrender to God the things I can’t understand and to remind myself that His thoughts and ways are higher than mine. 

Yet in my own experience of seeking the “Why nots”, I realized this no from God was not totally a ‘No’. In that journey of seeking God’s will, following His lead, and waiting, there are more things God worked that I eventually saw with eyes of faith other than the answer of what I was praying and hoping for. I pray you would also begin to see these things that happen when God says no to your prayers so that eventually we can still say, it was still a resounding YES from our Heavenly Father in Christ. 

You’ve grown in different areas.

If you have sought the Lord so much during this time, I’m sure it took so much time for you to spend in prayer, fasting, and meditation of His word. You may have kept a list of verses you’ve hold on to, promises you claimed and prayed, and hidden in your heart.

Maybe you also went to different people to seek their godly counsel regarding this matter. Some may have hurt you; some counsels may have confused you even more, or some were a hard pill to swallow. With varying opinions, heart presented to you (if they do really care for you), you have weighed their counsel and learned to discern God’s voice in all these. 

If this happened to you, one way or another, congratulations! You have exercised and gained “muscles” in your faith because of this experience. Each time you go into prayer, you open your Bible to read His word, pondered upon the verses that struck you, listen to other people, you have allowed yourself to grow in prayer, in God’s word, in humility, and in wisdom. Don’t despair or feel this time was a wasted time. In God’s economy, when can we have opportunities like this to exercise these things unless it was tested and gone through fire?

you have allowed yourself to grow in prayer, in God’s Word, in humility, and in wisdom.

This may be a familiar verse to all of us but James 1:2-4 exhorts believers that the testing of our faith produces perseverance. For what purpose? So that we will be mature and complete, not lacking in anything. So don’t discount the time you have spent seeking God’s will. He still accomplished the purpose to mature and complete His work in us. 

He opens new doors / pushes you to look for other open doors

We know this old adage, “When God closes the door, He opens a window”. If we truly prayed in accordance to His will, asked with no selfish motives in our hearts, and what we asked for was for God’s glory and not to satisfy our evil desires, how can He put us off and not give good gifts to those who ask him (Luke 18:7)? 

We never know what God can do in our circumstances and we can never box God’s answer within our expectations.

This door that we have been knocking on may have closed, but have you considered maybe you are knocking at the wrong door? Maybe there are other opportunities God wants you to consider that He’s already been working on? God may redirect our focus and energies instead to a different direction that He wants us to be part of. We never know what God can do in our circumstances and we can never box God’s answer within our expectations. 

Like the journey of Apostle Paul to preach the Gospel in the province of Asia, it wasn’t a wrong decision to go to this part of the world. In fact, this is actually the ends of the world Jesus has commissioned all His followers to go and make disciples. But in Acts 16:6, we see that the Holy Spirit has not permitted them to go. Instead, He received a vision from a man in Macedonia asking for their help. If Paul stopped pursuing God’s mission for him just because of one “no” from God, Paul wouldn’t have made an impact in Europe that eventually became the start of Christianity spreading to the world. 

I learned this at the time God said no to my prayer of pursuing studies overseas. I sought the Lord about this direction to study if it was time for me to do it, asked for counsel from my mentors, and asked my authorities for their blessings. I had my intentions and motivation to study clear—it was all for me to get equipped for God’s calling. But God said no and closed the door for this pursuit. In my confusion, I sought God further where He is leading me. It became apparent to me that if my purpose and motivation are clear, then I believe I should still pursue studying and equipping, just not in the “how” I thought of. Later on, God opened a free online missionary training for me to get in and had the opportunity to learn from fellow missionaries from other countries! God still continues to unfold His plans here for me to stay and that’s what made me realize if we are truly seeking His purposes, He will be the one to fulfill it in His way and time. 

We may not see how this “no” makes sense now, but if we are truly seeking God’s will and His purpose in our lives above all else, a setback will not hinder us from continuously doing what God wants us to do. Even in matters of “good” personal desires– desires that are not clearly sin or a product of lust of the eyes and flesh–take heart that God knows these desires. He clearly will not give us a snake when we ask for bread. 

You learn a lot—about yourself, people, and God

In line with looking at new doors of opportunities in seeking God’s answer, it also has given us so much time for self-discovery and self-awareness. Aside from discerning new opportunities, we also grow in learning about ourselves, about people around us, and most importantly how we know God. 

This process may have taught you about yourself in light of what God revealed in His word. Rejections and what we lost don’t define us. God already defined our identity in Him whether or not we have the applause of men, or regardless if there’s a person next to you. We also gained humility to seek and have a proper assessment of the skills God has given us and what He did not, to accept how He created us, to embrace what we cannot change, and to work on the things we have to improve on. 

Rejections and what we lost don’t define us. God already defined our identity in Him

As I seek the Lord if it was His will for me to pursue studies overseas, it was also a time to take an honest look at my strengths and weaknesses. Just like a job application, graduate studies require you to highlight your strengths, weaknesses, your experience, and just the usual question “why you?”. In simple terms—I had to prove myself that I deserve this. This process humbled me by coming to terms with what God gave me and what He didn’t. I learned to accept my leadership skills and highlight it. I also learned to recognize my weakness in self-discipline and improve it. And to let go of regrets I wished I became excellent with my studies way back in college to have an exemplary transcript of records for scholarships. Now I know how to move forward and discern with wisdom where God is leading me by how He created me because of this learning time. 

what we have discovered about ourselves, about people, and about God moves us closer to His ultimate will—Christlikeness.

We can also learn about the people around us. It’s amazing how trials and hardships in our lives can also allow us to discover about people. I don’t say this with any hint of bitterness, but in my experience, I realized that there are people God placed in my life who play an important role. I realized who are the people who actually know me in and out, who can speak life to me, who will give me a reality check, who will be there silently with you in prayer, and who will tell me it’s okay and cry with me. Sadly, you may also discover the opposite—and learn despite your failed expectations of others, it is God alone who will not let you be disappointed.

During this time, unless you are just seeking your self-serving motives, it is impossible for you not to learn a thing or two about God. Sometimes we discover wrong theological beliefs about God that we need to confess and repent from. Sometimes we rediscover old truths about Him in a new light. And sometimes, we finally understand what the Bible reveals about Himself that didn’t make sense at first.

And what we have finally discovered about ourselves, about people, and about God moves us closer to His ultimate will more than what we expected—Christlikeness. We finally understand that we are truly created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

You receive God’s best—because he replaces the good thing you thought of with His best.

It would be too cliché to learn this again—I hate to also say it but it is a timeless truth. I empathize with people who experienced doubts about their own spiritual life, doubted God, or even doubted people’s intentions after receiving that “no” answer because I have also been there. Because when you are in that position, encouragements like “there is something better for you”, “trust God”, “wait for God’s best” don’t seem to ring a bell in our hearts. More often than not, it becomes salt rubbed in our wounds. 

To get to the point for me to realize this, it took weeks and even months of wrestling with wrong beliefs, discernment in what you hear and read, and just the discipline to spend time with God again. Remember the first three “yes” that happens when God says no? Growing in different areas, opening new doors, learning a lot about yourself, people, and God—these things continue to get us to the point where we can acknowledge indeed God has our best interests at heart. 

It’s not easy to break down the walls that give us security, the idols in our hearts we have unknowingly set up, and even the pride where we think we know what’s the best course for our lives. Yet in this process, I have learned how God is gentle, kind, gracious, and capable to deal with our apparent insolence. 

Imagine Job and all that he had to go through. All his questions to God. All his honest hurts and pains. After going back and forth among Job and his friends for 37 chapters, God finally speaks and asks Job how the whole world operates. Clearly, Job didn’t know the answers to any of the questions God threw at him. Job finally realizes he didn’t need the answers to his “why’s”, but it is the acknowledgment of who God is. God doesn’t need to explain anything to us, He can do whatever He pleases to do, and we cannot thwart God’s plans. At the end of the matter, we still don’t know what is good for us just as much as we don’t know what makes the world go round. 

God knows us, He created us, that’s why He also knows what’s the best use of our lives.

Here’s another cliché truth that we need to hear again and again: God’s best is God Himself. If we take an honest look at ourselves, who are we? What is God’s obligation to us? Yet, in His grace and mercy, He revealed Himself to us and sought us when Jesus, being God Himself, took the form of flesh and gave Himself up on the cross, filled with compassion towards us. Everything—whether He gives and takes away—is all by His grace. And it takes faith to respond how Job responded from the beginning of his book and at the end: to bless the name of the Lord and to repent in dust and ashes. True to God’s gracious character again, God restored even twice as much as Job received earlier in his life! We definitely don’t understand the point of Job’s suffering, but what is clear to Job and what his life wants to teach us: we don’t need to know the why and what. We just have to know Who. 

In the end, all of us are at the mercy of God’s sovereignty. Our life is just a mist. We are here for a moment, and who knows if we’ll be here tomorrow? But in this short misty life we have, God knows us, He created us, that’s why He also knows what’s the best use of our lives. In my personal experience, did everything work out in the end? Yes. And even if it is seemingly hard to trust and hold on to this now, I also share this with so much empathy: it will all be okay.

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