Originally uploaded: 4th January 2019
As children we have been taught to see everything in two opposing categories. Black or white. Yes or no. Good or bad. We teach kids this way because it makes it easier to summarise complex ethics and philosophy. We teach them to be attracted to the goodness through reinforcements: if you do good you get rewarded but if you do bad you get punished.
In Sunday school, talking to God is centred around seeking.
Ask God for something and He will provide. His answers are either yes or no.
I don’t even think it’s a Christian thing but rather a human thing to assume that when we do good we instantly get rewarded or rather we are guaranteed a reward sometime soon; the higher power, we believe in, has to reward us.
Call it karma, call it fate, call it God.
Whether in that context or not we all believe in a similar notion.
I used to believe the secret to getting everything I wanted, was to pray really hard and do all the right things. Because then, God has no choice but to answer my requests. And it’s easy to believe in this notion, when the answer to our prayers is aligned with our expectations.
We get the job promotion. We get amazing grades. Sickness is healed.
But what about when God says no.
Is God punishing us?
Sometimes God says no.
I believe there are three reasons for this, which I will explain using the story of Job.
To summarise the story of Job, God allowed him to go through the ringer and he lost everything. His friends believed that there must be a reason for all this happening that he had committed a sin and this was his punishment. Job - after losing his family, his land and his health - broke and asked God why.
Let me just pause right there because this brings me to my first point:
Sometimes God says No: To show us who he is
In response to Job’s plea, God doesn’t tell Job the real reason - which is explained in the first chapter of the book of Job - rather he spends four whole chapters explaining who He is. Four whole chapters!
He explains the complexities of the world and the power of His might to remind Job that He is so much bigger than our situations.
This is not to dim down our pain and suffering because I feel it’s important to go through it and feel everything with all its intensity. This is also not to say that God puts bad situations in our lives to show off His power. This is just a reminder that through the roller coaster of life and with everything that is thrown at us, God is consistent. This is a reminder that when the world buries you under, God can grow life.
A friend reminded me that God didn’t say we wouldn’t be excused from pain when we decided to follow Him but that He would be with us when we went through it. Unfortunately we are not granted anything in this world, if anything it picks at us and takes more than it gives to us. But with God, with the grace He has already given us and with Him by our side - through fire and the flood, light and darkness - you will make it through. That’s the important part you will make it through and when you make through remember that He who created the universe was by your side.
So focus on who He is.
Sometimes God says No: To shape us
In the midst of Job’s distress and anguish, God continued to shape Job and help him grow. While focused on God he didn’t realise that God was working on him.
In the bible it says that we are moulded like clay, which sounds lovely but have you seen the force and pressure that turns a lump of clay into something so profoundly beautiful? In the midst of the fire and the flood, God peels off the old and allows the pressure and heat to intensify because in the end you become so much stronger than how you started.
We are constantly evolving as humans, we are constantly growing as humans and in order to grow that means growing pains.
Sometimes God says No: To give us something better
Plot twist! God gave Job everything he lost back. But wait, He didn’t stop there, he doubled everything. Isn’t it so annoying when God uses what the enemy does for evil and turns it into good? So annoying, right? Sliding through with an upgrade that I never expected.
No but in all seriousness, take a moment and actually look back through your life – would you still be here if everything had gone your way? Would you still be doing the amazing things that you are doing now and that you’re going to do in the future if God had “granted” your request as soon as you asked?
I believe that God has your best interest in mind and that He says no because He knows something better is on its way. That something better may not look how you expected it to – it may not look like Job’s – but in the end it may be what you needed.
Sometimes God says no but that doesn't mean that's the end of it, in fact it's only the beginning. He knows what is best for you and you don't have to be okay with not getting the answer you wanted and for things not turning out the way you wanted them to. But do give God your faith, as tiny as a mustard seed, don't let it consume you.
With this post, I am ghastly simplifying such a complex concept of understanding why certain things happen to us. But I think the point I’m trying to make is, to keep moving forward – this is different to moving on. Don’t move on from your past, don’t put yourself in a compliant place of denial but do keep focusing on God, striving for growth and seeing His goodness in your progress. If not, we simply fall down an endless rabbit hole that sees no light at the end.