Hebrews: When God Says “No.”

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“We’re going to pray, and God will give us the funds for this new building,” the preacher bellowed, and the crowd, whipped into a frenzy shouted their agreement. “Yes!” “Amen!” “Hallelujah!” I, however, did not. The woman beside me said, “What’s the matter? Don’t you believe God can do it?” “Oh, I believe God can do it, I just don’t believe He’s obligated to do it.”  She looked at me like I had two heads and turned her back to me. Please don’t misunderstand me, I absolutely believe that God answers prayers – He’s answered more than a few of mine recently.  But some of my prayers are still hanging, and for some of my prayers, the answer was “No.” God knew better. God always answers according to what He knows is better – what fits His good, pleasing, and perfect will (Romans 12:2). Sometimes that means we don’t get what we pray for. Even Jesus got a “No” from His Father.

In our last Hebrews devotional, I left you in the Garden of Gethsemane, listening to Jesus plead with His Father, “Take this cup from me . . .” Let’s leave quietly and head back to Hebrews 5 to see how it came out. The writer said, “He was heard.” Jesus’ word did not fall to the ground nor fall on deaf ears. His Father heard His prayers and pleading. So Jesus got what He wanted, right? After all, the Father listened to His Son “because of His reverent submission” (v.7b). Yet you know the rest of the story. God said “No” to Jesus. And He knew He would – the eternal fate of the entire human race hung in the balance. If God had saved Jesus from the cross, you and I would be lost forever.

What do we do with those “Nos?” The same thing Jesus did. “He learned obedience from what He suffered,” (v. 8a). We accept the “No” as coming from the heart of our loving, gracious, all-knowing Father and submit to Him in obedience without grumbling. Are we disappointed? Sure – and we can take that disappointment right back to Him and say, “I’m surrendering this to You because I trust You, but my heart is hurting.” God honors honesty and “He heals the brokenhearted” (Psalm 147:3).  Whether the answer is “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait,” you can trust the heart of your Father, Beloved. It’s the same heart that said “No” to His Son so that He could say “Yes” to you.

Wherever God is . . . There is Life

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Since I was a little girl, I have known and loved the story of Dorcas in Acts 9:36-42 – for obvious reasons. This was “my story” because, in my childish mind, she was me. I loved to tell about Dorcas, a kind and generous woman who loved the Lord and loved people.

Dorcas’ story has become mine for more reasons than just a shared name. Dorcas was a seamstress and I have also done a good deal of sewing. She used her talent to benefit her neighbors, and I have also sewed to bless others. And Dorcas died and was restored to life through the prayers of Peter. “Now, wait a minute,” you may be saying, “you have never died.” Well, I haven’t in the literal sense of the word, but I have in other hard ways.

Dorcas died a physical death – I died emotionally and my very spirit became lifeless and gray. She was laid on a bed in an upstairs room. I have laid before the Lord in deepest pain and soul-rending anguish. When she died, Dorcas’ heart stopped beating and her breath ceased. I have had seasons of brokenness where my heart lay in shards and splinters around my feet and the simple act of drawing a breath was more than I could manage. Dorcas entered the darkness of death. I have been in the darkness of depression and despair – surrounded by the deepest hues of black.

But God restored Dorcas to life – and He has graciously restored me too. He heard my prayers and my cries and sat with me in the dark and gloom. His Spirit spoke life to my spirit. His tender mercies restored all the pieces of my heart and He breathed hope and peace into my lungs. He restored my soul. He brought light and He brought Joy.

This is for the one who feels dead in your soul today. You have cried an ocean of tears and you given up on ever feeling alive again. Beloved, please hear my words and my heart: God will restore you back to life. That is His specialty. Bringing life from death. Making broken hearts whole. Breathing hope and peace and joy into your soul. Bringing light into the darkness.

Please do not give up Beloved. I died. God restored my life. He will restore you too. I am living proof.

The Wall Around my Heart

walled-heart

“Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” Proverbs 4:23
She told me through her tears “Nobody is ever getting that close to me again. From now on I’m guarding my heart, just like the Bible says.”
“Oh my sweet friend,” I replied, “That’s not exactly what the Scripture means. You can’t just shut your heart off from everyone, that’s no way to live.”
But I knew what she meant and how she felt. I’ve said much the same thing myself. You probably have as well. Because we are created in the image of a relational God, we are “wired” for relationship. Yet relationships often mean that our hearts will get bruised and even broken. But that doesn’t mean that we should seal them up behind stone walls and never let anyone in. I’ve done that. It only made me bitter and hard and harmed my heart far more than anyone else ever could. The heartache of a broken friendship or of loss by death or distance is truly painful. But I would rather feel the ache than not feel at all.
Many years ago, in my youth, someone close to me hurt me deeply, badly, some might say what they did was unforgivable, and I agreed for a very long time. So I laid the first layer of stone around my heart. Then a few years later came a broken marriage and another layer was added to the wall. Broken friendships, cutting words, abandonment and disappointment in more relationships meant I had to climb a ladder to add another round of stones. Before too long, my heart was completely closed off, shielded from any possible pain, but also shut off from light and warmth and joy – and God. My heart began to atrophy and grow cold and stony – like that protective wall.  When a friend died of a heart attack at 40, I recall telling the Lord, “It’s awful to die at such a young age.” In my spirit I heard a response, “No more so than living to a ripe old age with a stone cold heart.”
Dear friend, you may think you are protecting your heart by keeping it hidden behind walls of stone and iron, but the truth is, you are doing far more damage to it than any person could inflict. Yes, your pain is real. Yes, the hurt runs deep. But you were not created to be in a prison of your own making. Please – tell the One who can heal your heart and break down the walls. You were meant to feel the warmth of relationships. You were made for love.