The Mailbag: How do I move on after God says “no”?


I loved your article, When God Says “No”. I have a question though: At what point do you move on from the hope or desire? I’m a single mother and feel that I will always have a natural desire for a spouse and I will always desire that for my young children, but the Lord has not provided this for me. At what point do you stop asking for the thing, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be, and move forward?

A dear reader asked this in the comments section of my article When God Says No, and I wanted to share my answer to her here on The Mailbag, because I think it’s something a lot of us struggle with.

When God seems to be saying no to a desire, I think there’s a sense in which moving forward is something you do over and over again every day until or unless God takes that desire away. Taking life “one day at a time” sounds cliché, but if you’ll look at the way Jesus teaches, that’s very much the mindset He wants us to have.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs us to ask for daily bread. This is an echo of the manna God provided in the wilderness on a daily basis. Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us not to be anxious for the things we don’t have and not to worry about the future. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” He says.

Those passages are hard for me because I’m a planner, and I don’t like surprises. I like to have everything mapped out and know in advance what’s going to happen so I can feel secure. But I’ve found that when I’m secure and everything is going well and I don’t really have any problems or unfulfilled desires, I tend to pray less. Depend on God less. Need Him less. And God knows that, more than anything we might desire, what we really need is to need Him. So God does the “daily” thing. God likes for us to get up every day and depend on Him for that day.

So I think what you – what all of us – need to do is get up tomorrow morning, spend time with the Lord, and ask Him to help us honor and glorify Him through our words, actions, decisions, etc., that day. Then, we get up the next day and the next and the next, and do the same thing. We put our hope in the Lord Himself, not in what He might or might not do in our lives, and we simply seek to walk with Him and be obedient to Him day by day.

If it would be something that would help you – sort of a “memorial stone” type of thing – you can set aside some time, maybe even in a special place, to hash everything out with the Lord about your situation. Pour out your heart to Him in prayer, cry, repent of anything you might need to repent of, study some applicable Scripture, commit your heart to trust Him, and, as the old gospel song says, “take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.” In the future, if you start feeling sad or frustrated with God about not having a husband, you can look back on that time as a reminder that you committed to trust God and leave this issue with Him.

Finally, (and I know this might sound silly, but I have to remind myself of this all the time) remember that God’s provision isn’t dependent on our prayers. He truly does know what we need before we ask. In other words, you could stop praying for a husband right this minute and never pray about it again and God is not going to forget that that’s what you want, or move it to a lower priority level on His prayer-answering list, or punish you by denying you a husband simply because you stopped praying about it. There are things God blesses us with that we’ve never spent a moment praying for. There are things we stop praying for that God finally gives us years later. And there are things we pray constantly for that God says “no” about. God is going to do what is best for you and what brings Him the most glory, and that doesn’t hinge on whether you pray about that specific thing every day or not. The purpose of prayer is not to get God to do what we want Him to do. The purpose of prayer is to get us on the same page He’s on- so that we want what He wants.

It can be really difficult and sad when God doesn’t grant our desires, especially when we know they don’t conflict with Scripture, but the blessing is that God can use these circumstances to increase our dependence on Him and conform our desires to His own.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

5 thoughts on “The Mailbag: How do I move on after God says “no”?”

  1. I’m so glad you answered this question so we could all benefit! I especially appreciated the section about *why* we pray, and how God won’t forget or put it at a lower priority if we don’t pray about it. I think many have this wrong impression about prayer.


    1. That’s one of those errant ways of thinking that constantly sneaks up on me- that if I don’t pray hard enough or often enough about something, that’s the reason God isn’t “doing anything” about it. I’m forever having to correct myself about that :0) If you think about it, it’s really a Word of Faith way of thinking and praying: “If you just have enough faith, God will give you what you want.” But that’s not what the Bible says. Job is certainly proof of that.

      Liked by 1 person

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