When God Says “No”

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This past Monday, my daughter, Avonlea, turned 1 year old. ONE! It’s crazy how quickly this last year flew by. And it’s been too. much. fun!

I’ve held her.

Changed her diaper.

Given her baths.

Fed her.

Tickled her.

Read to her.

Prayed with her.

Laughed with her.

Cheered her on as she learned to crawl.

Tried to keep up with her as she’s learned to walk.

Picked her up after she’s fallen and bumped her head.

Said the phrase “Say _________” hundreds of times as we are teaching her words.

Been amazed by her HUGE personality!

Cleaned up after her mischievous adventures (the picture above shows that quite well).

And I’ve fallen more and more in love with her as each day passes.

She’s my “Avie Rose.”

The last couple of weeks I’ve noticed 2 new things.

First, I’ve repeated a tiny, 2-letter word more than any other time in my life. Every parent knows which word I’m talking about.

“No.”

And the funny thing is, I’ve had to say “No” in connection with other words I rarely had to before.

Toilet. Toilet paper. Outside. Leaves. Eat. Mouth. Etc.

You get the picture.

Second, Avonlea isn’t just developing mentally and physically, she’s developing her will. That precious gift given to us by God to freely use. That ability to make choices. To act and react. Yup. She’s learning that quickly. And I knew it would come, although I, like every naive first-time parent, thought it wouldn’t be as pronounced with my child. Ha!

With those 2 things in mind, get this story. It was dinner time and we had all 3 sat down at the table. Rachel and I began to eat, but Avonlea’s food was still a bit too hot. As Avonlea reached for her food, I pulled it back and said to her “Not yet, Avonlea. It’s too hot.” She got distracted by something and maybe 15 seconds later reached for it again. It was out of her reach this time and she was growing frustrated as she strained for it. I looked at her and said in a serious, slightly raised and concerned voice, “No.” She immediately started crying and then made a face that I’m pretty sure had we been filming could have won her an Oscar. It was dramatic to say the least!

I was shocked by her ridiculous reaction to that 2-letter word. Rachel and I both laughed a bit, as we watched Avonlea transform into a drama queen. And then I quickly became bothered by it all. I thought, “I know she’s only 1, but shouldn’t she be obeying me when I ask her to do something? I mean doesn’t she love me? And not only doesn’t she obey me, but she gets upset at me for just saying ‘No.’ And not just upset, but in tears. I’m not even mad at her. What’s going on?” 

As I began to rationalize with my 1 year old, I was immediately confronted by how I react when God says “No” to me.

Have you ever been there?

Maybe you’ve prayed for something and the answer, by way of the prayer not going your way, seems to be “No.”

Maybe you see what everyone else is doing around you and you want to do it, but it goes against a verse in the Bible where God has said “No” to doing that very thing, and you get angry.

Maybe it “feels right” to do what you are being enticed to do, but you know God has said “No” to doing it. Maybe you give in.

Maybe you feel stuck in this season of life and there is a shortcut you could say “yes” to, but God is saying “no.”

Maybe you want to do something right now, in the moment, but God is saying “No. Later is better. Wait. Be patient”

Maybe you are tired of even considering following God, because you feel he’s all about the rules. He’s judgmental. And the answer is always “no.”

Let’s be real: maybe you’re done feeling guilty for doing what everyone else seems perfectly content doing. And if God would just get out of your conscience life would be much easier. You could watch porn, have pre-marital sex, lie, cheat, steal, etc. with no worries.

If any of these describe you, I’m with you. I’ve been there. But hold on, take a deep breath and keep reading.

In each moment we all ideally want all of our desires to be answered “yes” and for that “yes” to not be delayed. We want what we want right now. Immediate gratification is the name of the game. And daily we are marketed to in countless ways with messages that reinforce our desires: “You deserve it. Take all you want. Enjoy it. No boundaries. Don’t wait. Do it now. The answer is ‘yes.'” 

The scary things is there are obvious consequences to this way of thinking and living.

The scarier thing is since God doesn’t at all operate like this, we often get upset with him, see his answers as irrelevant and irrational, and in the end, see no need for him at all.

What we are really doing is distrusting God’s character. And we are missing out on a much better life.

What if the next time God says “No” to your desire, you stopped and considered that maybe he knows something that you don’t? Maybe he knows what’s best for you and a “No” answer is exactly what you need.

When I was in seminary, one of my professor’s said this: “God’s commandments are to keep us from something bad and to save us for something better.”

That has stuck with me to this day. And I believe it always will.

When God says “No,” he is not trying to make your life miserable. He is not trying to make you miss out on what everyone else is doing. He is not punishing you. He is not trying to put fear in you. He is not mad at you. He is not trying to give you unattainable standards. He is not all about rules.

He actually cares about your life more than you or I ever will.

When I said “No” to Avonlea eating the hot food it was because at my core, I wanted what was best for her. I didn’t want her to get burnt and I wanted her to enjoy her food at the right time. It was an act of grace for me to warn her and give her boundaries.

Have you ever considered it’s the same way with God?

It is.

So, the next time God says “No” to something in your life, remind yourself of 3 things:

1. God wants what’s best for me.

2. God wants to keep me from something bad.

3. God wants to save me for something better.

Then obey his “No” and see how that works out for you. I’m betting it goes better than obeying your own “yes.”

5 Things My 5-Month-Old Daughter Has Taught Me About God

avonlea smile pictureI’ve often heard it said that you can’t fully understand your own parents love for you until you have a child of your own. As I’ve loved on my baby girl, Avonlea, for the past 5 months, I’ve come to realize that statement is truer than I could have ever imagined. It’s not that I didn’t believe my parents loved me before having a child. I always knew they did. They’ve shown me thousands of times through their actions, words and sacrifices. But now, more than ever before, I get it. And it’s because I’m a parent, just like them. I’ve loved someone else like they’ve loved me all along. It’s not something that you can understand in theory. It has to be experienced. And now I have.

In a similar way, becoming a parent helps you better understand God. For example, before becoming a dad I missed the significance of God self-identifying himself in Scripture as “Father.” Beyond the theological meanings, he undoubtedly knew that we—people he created for relationship with himself—would understand that parent title. We all have parents. Most people will one day become parents. And “God as our Father” clearly tells us something about how he sees us. He sees us as his children. He sees us as his sons and daughters.

Now that I’m a dad with a baby girl I’m starting to get it. I’m starting to understand in a new way his actions, his character and his interactions with me. He’s my perfect, heavenly father and I’m his son.

Over the past 5 months I’ve had an absolute blast learning how to become a dad to my beautiful Avie Rose! There are many lessons I’ve learned and many more to come, but here are 5 things my 5-month-old daughter has taught me about God.

1. Struggling doesn’t mean God is absent.
Recently Avonlea started rolling over from her back to her stomach. As she rolled over, one of her arms would always get stuck underneath her body. She would pull as hard as she could until she got it out from under her. It was quite the struggle for her. Now I could have helped her. I could have pulled her arm out as soon as she began to struggle. But I didn’t. I would get down on her level and tell her, “You can do it. Pull it out!” I don’t think she understood what I was saying to her, but she understood I was right there beside her.
Often times during our struggles we get angry and think God is absent. But what if there is something to be learned in our struggles? What if growth can best come through them? Maybe God could rescue us when we are struggling, but he doesn’t. And that’s okay. He is right there with us cheering us on.

2. God wants to lead us.
Avonlea is dependent on us, her parents, for just about everything. We dress her, bathe her, feed her, etc. And I know that in just a few years she will become “Miss. Independent” and think she can do life on her own. But she will still need mom and dad’s leadership because we know things she doesn’t. We have the ability to help her.
In the same way we need God’s leadership. He desires to help us through life and give us wisdom for each day. He wants to help us make wise choices. He wants to keep us from the bad things of life and show us the good. But independent, know-it-all people like me, and maybe you, often miss it. We don’t think we need to surrender to his leadership. But we do. And he is willing to lead us.

3. God hurts when we hurt.
I’ve empathized with others before and I really do care about people. I’ve occasionally cried when I’m sad for others. I’ve heard things on TV that make me sick and break my heart. But I’ve never truly hurt for another person like I have with Avonlea. When she hurts I hurt. Whether it’s her screaming when she gets her vaccines or her crying from bumping her head, I hurt. I feel her pain.
The cross of Christ was the ultimate pain. The ultimate suffering. The ultimate hurt. We serve a God who knows what it means to hurt. He isn’t indifferent. He isn’t causing our pain. He cares. And he hurts when we hurt.

4. God wants a relationship with us.
I’m so excited every time I come home because I know I’m about to see my baby girl. She smiles at me when I smile at her. She reacts when she hears my voice. She enjoys being with me. She knows me. She likes me. She can’t talk. She can’t do anything for me. But that doesn’t matter at all. I just want to be with her, because I love her.
God doesn’t just want a relationship with you to save you from Hell. He doesn’t just want a relationship with you so you will honor him in your life. He wants a relationship with you because he loves you. You are one of the precious people he created. You are one of his sons or daughters. He likes you. He enjoys you. He wants to be with you.

5. God loved his son more than I’ll ever love my daughter. And I am called to love his son more than my daughter.
This is by far the most difficult truth I’ve learned. At the end of the day, my love for my daughter is imperfect. It falls short. It’s selfish at times. And it’s incomplete. But God the Father’s love for his son, Jesus, is perfect. And in his love for his son, I benefited (John 3:16).
Also, Jesus said we had to love our family less than him if we were to follow him. I’m realizing now more than ever how difficult that is to swallow as a dad. But what it’s revealing in me is not that loving my daughter is wrong. It’s showing that I don’t love Jesus like I need to. I don’t love him the way he deserves. He is God after all. The creator of the universe. The savior of the world. He died for me. He is the picture of true love. And he is worthy of being my greatest love.

Welp, there ya go. 5 things my 5-month-old daughter has taught me about God.

Which truth did you need to hear the most today? What would you add to this list?