Sometimes we pray and God grants us the desires of our hearts. But sometimes, he simply says “no” or “wait.” It doesn’t mean that what you’re praying for isn’t good. But God’s ways are higher than ours. It’s easy to become frustrated when God doesn’t answer your prayer the way you wished he would. I’ve experienced this before. I’ve complained, felt despair, cried, and said, “Why me, God?” While we are human and God understands our range of human emotions, I’ve learned that there is a better way to respond when God says “no.”
I’m not the only one who’s been in your shoes. In fact, the prophet Habakkuk can intimately relate to what you are feeling right now. He saw the sin, idolatry, and godlessness of his people and all he wanted was for God to fix it. Habakkuk’s prayer was a noble one. Yet, God said, “no.” Habakkuk wanted God to change the hearts of his people and lead them back to righteousness. Instead, God told Habakkuk that he would judge his people. They would be carried away captive to Babylon, a nation more sinful than they were.
Habakkuk couldn’t understand why. Why would God allow his people to be oppressed by such an evil nation? Were they not his people? Would he not save them?
As in Habakkuk’s case, God often moves in our lives in unexpected ways. Sometimes God’s solution to our problems seems devastating. We may bring a noble cause before the Lord and yet, the Lord may appear to remain silent. We may pray for the healing of a loved one or the salvation of a friend, and their case may just get worse. Or perhaps, we might pray for financial relief and only suffer more financial loss. Maybe you’ve been praying for a child only to have countless miscarriages.
What do you do when God says “no” to your noble and well-meaning prayer?
Wait and Listen for what God will say
It’s human nature to think that we know all the answers. When God doesn’t answer a well-meaning prayer the way we would like, it’s natural to object and think that we’re right and God is wrong. Interestingly enough, this is what Habakkuk did. He complained.
Then he did something differently. He decided that he would wait and listen for what God would say.
I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint.Habakkuk 2:1 NLT
When God says “no” and we don’t understand why, it’s tempting to make our own plans and do what we think is right. However, submitting to God’s sovereignty is more important. Don’t draw your own conclusions about what God is doing. Trust that in his own time, he will explain and everything will make sense.
Related: Walking Through Seasons of Waiting
Trust what you know to be true about God
Next, trust God’s character. Habakkuk could stop and wait for the Lord’s answer because he had a relationship with God. He was God’s prophet and had heard God’s voice before. Not only that, he was a member of Israel, God’s chosen people. Habakkuk knew how God had rescued his people time and time again despite their unfaithfulness. He knew how God had chosen Israel and showered them with his love. He knew that God was gracious, slow to anger, full of compassion, and faithful to his covenant promises.
What do you know is true about God? Yes, I know his answer to your prayer doesn’t seem to make sense right now. I know it seems like God has abandoned you. But hasn’t he always been there for you? Hasn’t he always come through?
You have prior experience with God’s faithfulness and even when you cannot recall your own experiences, you have countless testimonies from the Word to cling to.
Related: Why is God Making Me Wait So Long?
Pay attention when God answers
God will give you direction. He might have said “no” to your current prayer but that doesn’t mean that he’s left you. He’s still with you. The redirection may not come when you want it to and it may not even be what you were looking for. But, pay attention when God answers.
God told Habakkuk his plan for Israel. Yes, there was some bad news – they would be taken into captivity. However, after the captivity, God would restore them.
Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.habakkuk 2:2-3 NLT
God’s plan might seem slow but wait for it. It’ll happen. In fact, this plan that God told Habakkuk took many years to be fulfilled. It was fulfilled when Christ came, died, and resurrected. If God’s answer to Habakkuk took hundreds of years to come to pass, God’s answer to you might take some time as well.
I know you don’t want to hear this but you might have to walk through more trials. The middle can get a bit messy. There might be more pain. But God won’t ever leave you. He’s with you and the Holy Spirit comforts you as you walk through this.
Related: 5 Good Reasons to Trust God’s Timing
Don’t forget to rejoice
Rejoice? Why? Well, because God is good. Because even though things are difficult right now they won’t always be this way.
This is exactly what Habakkuk did:
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.habakkuk 3:17-19 NLT
Habakkuk saw his present condition and it was not good. The fig trees were not blooming. There were no grapes on the vines. Their crops were failing and their fields were empty. Furthermore, their flocks were dying and they had no cattle. Yet Habakkuk decided to rejoice. God was the God of his salvation. He knew that God was his strength. Finally, he said that in the same way that God gave deer the skill and strength to climb difficult terrain, God would give him the strength to walk through whatever difficulty lay ahead for him.
I won’t be one of those people who tell you that life is easy. It isn’t. Hardship is real and sometimes God says “no” to the good things we desire. We don’t always know why and it’s tempting to despair but don’t. There is hope: God is with you in the middle of this and he’s supplying you with the strength you need to endure. It won’t last forever. Whether in this life or in the next, God will fulfill his promise to you.
Trust the character of your God and rejoice because he is faithful.