This semester, having moved to a new area, my main prayer has been for community.
I have been praying this consistently for the past 12 weeks. Actually, I started praying about this before I even left home. I knew this was something important, something I needed, so I wanted to be prepared. Well, it’s now the end of the semester, I’m about to take my last final exam, and guess what?
Wouldn’t it be great if, at this point, I said something like, “I have found my tribe!!”?
Yeah, it would. But that’s not the case.
It has been a rollercoaster, an up-stream swim. I have prayed, and sought opportunities, and “put myself out there”, and I still feel like a lone wolf. Sure, I met some cool people and enjoyed some good times, but I don’t feel as if I have found my village, you know?
It feels that in addressing my request to let me find my group this semester, God answered, “No.”
I think we get surprised and disheartened when we face these situations because we expect God’s love to translate into us getting whatever we want. If we study God’s character, we see that God is postured to give us “yes” (2 Corinthians 1:20), when it benefits us and builds up His kingdom.
God wants me to have friends, doesn’t He? Isn’t community a Kingdom characteristic? The answer to both those questions is yes. However, what we often forget to factor is God’s timing. Just because God wants to give me something doesn’t mean I’ll get it right away.
God’s “no” is just as powerful and fulfilling as His “yes”. What happens when He says “no”? I’m still learning, but I’ve realized a few things.
In my current situation, I want friends. I have been experiencing loneliness and all the other feelings that sprout from that. I’ve been wanting people in whom I can confide and with whom I can enjoy life. I have been searching hard for it, chasing it down. Through the process, God has said to me, “what would happen if you chased me down like that?”
God showed me that He is everything for which I had been asking. He revealed to me that He is the filler of all gaps and the provider of all needs. God wants me to have friends, but He doesn’t want me to put them in a place only He should occupy. The Lord wants to gift me community, but He doesn’t want me to get so wrapped up in the gift that I dispose of the Giver. The present could never replace His presence, but sometimes I would lose sight of that. That can be a dangerous predicament.
Sometimes God’s “no” is my protection.
He also assured me that I would not feel lonely forever, that this was a time of stretching and building. This was not that for which I had asked, but it was what He deemed that I needed.
You know when your coach or trainer pushes you and you want to stop? Sometimes you yell that your muscles are on fire or that you can’t run anymore, that you’re too tired or weak. That’s how this semester felt. Even in the gym, I don’t like people pushing me. I feel like I do a sufficient job of pushing myself. I know what my goals are and what I have to do to get there and I commit to doing it. With this semester though, I feel like I never even saw this coming. I lost my breath, I took some falls, but I also built muscle and stamina.
Sometimes God’s “no” is my strength.
God promised to never leave me (Deuteronomy 31:6). Even when I fell, He was so gentle about picking me up. Even when I didn’t want to get up, he was so patient in talking to me, holding me, and encouraging me. This semester has surely been one of the hardest, but it has also been one in which I have had the most intimate moments with God. He promises me that His plans for me are beyond my imagination (Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 3:20), so I have to believe that if He did not grant my request, He has an even greater request in mind to grant for me.
People who overquote Jeremiah 29:11 often leave out the preceding story. The people to whom God professed this were the same ones that He had thrown into exile. It wasn’t even a temporary banishment; God told them to go ahead and get settled in the land of exile, getting married and growing families. Further, He tells them that they will spend at least 70 years in this place, AND THEN He will get them out of there and restore their fortunes. It is THEN when He tells them about the great plans He has for them. He does not give them what they want right then and there. That request is denied. However, instead, He promises to give them more than they even asked for later on.
If God is telling me “no” now, I can only expect better things to come.
Sometimes God’s “no” is my hope.
My situation is not yet resolved. I will not pretend that I am where I want to be. I do believe, however, that God, through both His “yesses” and “noes”, will take me there.
Photo Credit: William Stitt via Unsplash
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