The Struggle of “No” (By Matt Vince)

My wife and I have a 3-and-a-half-year-old daughter named Isabella. She is a joy and delight…most of the time. As of late, we have really come to understand the meaning of the term “threenager”, that her attitude is more like that of a defiant teenager than her usually cherub-like demeanor of an obedient toddler.
As a prime example, she has taken to boldly proclaiming that she will “Never do ________!” Fill in the blank with whatever action/activity/response mommy or daddy has told her she needs to stop because it’s disrespectful, dangerous, etc. This declaration is often accompanied by angry, dirty looks, screaming, crying, stomping her feet, even hitting and/or biting herself. All because she was told she couldn’t do what she wanted.
I was recently reading one of my favorite passages, Acts 16. It is the start of the church at Philippi. But it’s a difficult beginning by any measure. As is often his method, Paul wants to visit the local synagogue to preach about Christ, but there isn’t one, so he meets with some women outside of town who get together for prayer (v. 13).
After seeing a strong start to the ministry in a particularly prominent business women, Lydia, and her house becoming believers (v. 15), things seem to take a very sharp turn for the worse. Paul and Silas, after casting a demon out of a young girl (v. 16-18), are falsely accused of trying to incite civil disobedience (v. 21). As a result, they are attacked by an angry mob, arrested by the magistrates, who then have them beaten with rods (which was illegal, because they were Roman citizens), and they are to be put in prison (v. 23). But the jailor took it upon himself to go further by putting the men into the inner prison – the darkest, most and most disgusting part of the prison – and placing them in the stocks (v. 24), which was an extremely painful means of restraint back in their day.
And the real kicker in this horrible, dark turn of events? Back in verses 6-10, Paul and Silas wanted to go into the unreached region of Asia, but God through the Holy Spirit said, “No”, and instead sent them to Macedonia and their present situation. Because of this, it makes perfect sense that they, in their dungeon, alone and in much pain, angrily cry out to God for His obvious bad judgement in not allowing them to go to Asia. They defiantly talk through all the “what if’s” and how things would have been so much better had they just gotten their way.
But that’s not what they did. Rather, they prayed and sang praises to God during their sleepless night. They prayed and sang praise songs! I don’t about you, but as much as I love singing, when I’m angry, hurt, or upset, those are not times I typically break out into song! But it’s this response to God’s saying “no” that really hits home for me. Thankfully, I’ve matured enough that I no longer stomp my feet and scream when I’m told “no”. Now I become angry, indignant, and often think things I shouldn’t when I’m told “no”.
So, we must examine how do we respond when we are told “no”. Sure, in some things it may not be that big of a deal, such as when an item we really wanted that was on a great sale is all out. We may be disappointed, but likely that’s all. But what about when we are passed over for that promotion, again? Or when that relationship that we were convinced was God’s will, ends? How about when we have pleaded with God to spare the life of a loved one with a terminal disease, and He doesn’t? Do we clench our teeth, shake our fist at the sky and curse God and His will, or do we pray and sing praise?
How will you respond the next time you are told “No”?