When God Says No


Here’s When God Says No

Have you ever asked, even begged, God for something that would have been easy for him to do and seemed consistent with his will, but the answer was “no”? And was it even harder when you saw others getting exactly what they asked for? 

I’m thinking about this because I’ve felt the disappointment of God’s denials too. And they’ve all been hard to understand.  

There have been times when God answered my pleas for deliverance immediately, but more often his answers have been “wait” or “no.” I begged God to save the life of my son, but he died even as I was praying. Yet I have had friends with sick children who miraculously recovered, and they rightly attributed it to the power of prayer. I begged God to restore my marriage, which I saw as the best outcome for our whole family. But things didn’t unfold the way I prayed for, and we ended up divorced. I begged God for wisdom and help on a project that turned out to be a disaster. And I’ve watched close friends struggle with unwanted singleness or infertility while everyone around them was getting married and having children.

Why does God say no to some people’s godly requests and say yes to others? 

The man we often refer to as “the demoniac” might have wondered that as well. In Luke 8:26-39, Jesus and the disciples went to the Gerasenes specifically to deliver a man who was possessed. When Jesus casts out his demons, the spirits beg Jesus to let them enter the pigs on the hillside; Jesus immediately gives them permission. When the people from the surrounding countryside learn what happened, they beg Jesus to go away; Jesus immediately leaves.

Then the once-possessed man begs to leave with Jesus, but Jesus says, “Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you” (Luke 8:39). This is the only “No” in the entire narrative. Jesus gives the demons what they ask for. The unbelieving and fearful townspeople get what they ask for. But when the man whom Jesus delivered wants to go with him, seemingly the most righteous request of them all, Jesus says no. 

This man had been alone in the desert and probably longed for human companionship. His family had left him to live naked among the tombs, perhaps because there was no way to live with him. He had once been kept under guard and bound with shackles, but he was driven away because he broke those bonds. Apparently, the townspeople saw this man as beyond redemption because seeing him in his right mind made them afraid.

So why doesn’t Jesus let him go back with them? Why is this man the only one in the story who is refused? 

Jesus denied this man’s legitimate request because the Lord had much bigger plans for him. Plans that would bear lasting fruit and would increase the kingdom. The country of the Gerasenes was a predominantly Gentile region. The man needed to testify to his family and everyone around about the goodness of God. They needed to know how God had delivered him. And so he went away, proclaiming throughout the city, how much Jesus had done for him. 

My sister Shalini first highlighted this eye-opening sequence of Jesus’ varied responses, reminding me that we don’t get to choose our assignments. If God doesn’t give us what we’ve asked for, it’s always because he has a better assignment in mind. It may not look anything like we envisioned or longed for and may seem like the opposite of what our hearts desire. Sometimes, like the man from the Gerasenes, our assignment may involve staying where we are, showing our faithfulness to those who know us, testifying to God’s goodness in a familiar and painful place rather than embarking on an exciting new adventure. No matter what, we can be confident that God’s plans are for our good and not for evil – to bring us peace and wholeness in him. To give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). He promises to fulfill his plans for us (Psalm 138:8).

Each of our assignments are hand-picked by God, though sometimes they involve denying our earnest requests. As Elisabeth Elliot said:

“God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God’s refusals are always merciful — “severe mercies” at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better.” 

God’s refusals are always his mercies and so if the Lord says “no” to something good, it’s just to give us something better.* 


*My friend Debby Clayton first said this to me – and it has since become part of my vocabulary.

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source : https://www.vaneetha.com/journal/when-god-says-no

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