As you know, if you’ve read any of my blog posts in the past, they usually consist of the ways God speaks to me through the everyday, regular, mundane activities of life. One of the ways that He speaks most often is through my girls, Zoe and Elsie.
A few weeks ago, after a church event we had on a Friday night, Zoe asked me if a friend could spend the night. Well, there are 2 rules regarding spend the night company at the Smyth house – first, you do not ask if the person can spend the night in front of that person. And second, no spontaneous spend the night company. We have such a busy schedule, spend the night company has to be planned out. So she broke the second rule. At first, I thought, “No, she knows the rules, and she has put me in a bad position.” But then I thought a bit more and realized we had no real plans on Saturday, so maybe it would be okay. So I told her yes. She jumped and squealed and ran to her friend’s car to tell her I said yes. Then she ran back past me to get her stuff out of the gym. But before she went inside, she turned back and ran towards me, jumped into my arms like she was a toddler (she’s 11!), and said, “I love you, Mom!” I remember thinking, “What if I had said no? Would she still love me?” But I let that thought fade away amidst squeals and laughter.
A few days later, I had to take Elsie on a field trip to the North Jefferson Women’s Center to deliver some diapers that her and her Frontier Girl friends had collected. I picked her up from Science Olympiad practice, and we had 30 minutes to kill before the event. She said she wanted a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino from Starbucks. I said okay, because a cup of White Chocolate Mocha sounded good to me! As we left, she then decided she was hungry and wanted some fries. I said no at first, but then I decided sure, what the heck? I knew she was hungry. As she held her first fry, she looked at me and said, “Mom, I love you.” There it was again!!
Well, lo and behold another situation came up, again with Elsie. I had to make one of my weekly trips to Dollar General, and they had some Shopkins crayons for $1.00. Elsie asked me for 2 packs of them, because each pack had different colors. I said yes without a second thought. I had other things to get and it really didn’t bother me to buy her those crayons.
In the car, she said, “Mom, I love you.” Just like she did when I got her french fries. But this time, I wanted to dig a little deeper. I wanted to know why she loved me. I knew there had to be some sort of spiritual lesson in all this. So I asked her why. She said, “Because you got me crayons… and not just one pack, but two. And you’re kinda a good mom.” 🙂
So there it is. She loves me, first off, because I gave her things. And as an afterthought, or after she saw my face, she said she loved me because I was a good mom… kinda.
I thought more about when I say “no” to the girls. There are no “I love you’s” or full body tackle hugs. There are no sweet smiles with awkward compliments. There are grunts and sighs, pity parties and sass.
Then I started thinking about the Lord. About the times that He says “no” to me. Do I hold back my love in the wake of a heavenly “no”?
A friend of mine, Krishna Barber, makes all kind of cute vinyl stickers. She recently posted a picture on Instagram of one she made that said, “and if not, He is still good…” Well, that just struck a chord in my spirit. “And if not, He is still good…” I couldn’t get that phrase out of my mind and heart.
This phrase came straight out of Daniel 3, which tells the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being thrown into the fiery furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar had created a giant image of himself made out of gold, and declared that when the music played, all must bow down and worship this golden image. Well, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would have none of that. When the King found out that they were not worshipping the image, he was furious. He summoned them and questioned them about it.
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
This, of course, made the King even more angry. He ordered the furnace to be heated up seven times stronger than normal. He had them bound up and thrown into the fire. It was so hot, that it actually killed the soldiers who tossed them in.
But God was faithful, and saved the three men. When the King looked into the fire, he could actually see 4 men in the fire, of which he said the fourth looked like a “son of the gods”, which I believe to be Jesus. Nebuchadnezzar then praised the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and promoted all three.
“But even if he does not…” that’s what they said. They would never serve another god, because they knew their God was the only true God, and that He was a good God.
But in this story, God didn’t ‘not’ here. It was just a hypothetical situation. “If He does not…”, but God came through in this situation. But what about the times when He truly does ‘not’? When His answer is “no”?
II Samuel 11 tells us the story of one of the lowest and most immoral moments of King David’s life. He has an affair with one of his soldier’s wives, Bathsheba, and gets her pregnant. Then he basically has him murdered by putting him on the front lines of the battle. This is David at an all-time low.
In the 12th chapter, the prophet Nathan calls David out. David recognizes his sin. David repents, but there is still a consequence for his sin. Nathan tells him that the baby born out of this sinful encounter would indeed die. David is brokenhearted and pleads and prays for God to save His son. But the answer is “no”.
15 After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. 16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them. 18 On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.”19 David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.” 20 Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate. 21 His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!” 22 He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” 24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him.
So here, you see that God did “not”. Although David pleaded, fasted, and laid in sackcloth on the ground for seven days, God’s answer was no. Straight up “no”. But after the baby passed, Scripture says David washed and changed, and went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Why? Because he knew his God was still good. Soon after, Bathsheba became pregnant with another child, who would be named Solomon and would later become the wealthiest and wisest king of all time. “And if not, He is still good…”
So that was then, thousands of years ago. But what about now? What about real-life people I know? I think about Joey Feek, the country singer who just passed away last week of cervical cancer at the age of 40. She had the entire country praying that God would save her. But God said no. Or maybe He didn’t say no. Maybe His way of saving her was just different than what we had in mind… But He is still good. Why? Because now, that sweet lady is singing with the angels, having the concert of a lifetime.
There are specific things I have prayed for people in my church, and right now, it seems that God isn’t answering some of them the way I want Him to answer. But just because His answer may not be what I want it to be, in fact, it might even be a ‘no’, He is still good. He sees the big picture from His vantage point, and sometimes the answer is no. And I fully believe that He loves me and wants nothing but the best for me, so I have to trust that His “no’s” come from what He “knows”.
God also speaks directly to me through music. There is a popular worship song that is currently playing on Christian radio called ‘Trust In You’ by Lauren Daigle. It perfectly describes what I want to feel when God says ‘no’ or does things His way instead of my way…
Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less
When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!
Don’t let your love for God be conditional. His love for you is not – although we are absolutely unworthy. Don’t hold back your love, your praise, your worship, just because you received a “no”. Don’t be a fickle worshipper. When those mountains don’t move and when the waters don’t part, use those moments to deliberately worship Him all the more, knowing that He knows all and trust in that.
In the early 2000’s, Scott and I read a book called The God Chasers. One of my favorite quotes is in that book. Tommy Tenney writes, “The word of the Lord to us is to stop seeking His benefits and seek Him. We are not to seek His hands any longer, but seek His face.”
My girls were seeking my hand – what I could do for them… what I could give them. They weren’t asking what they could do to know me better or spend more time with me. They weren’t seeking my ‘face’. I enjoyed the hugs and the “I love you’s”, just like He does. But I absolutely adore the unsolicited hugs, smiles, and “I love you’s”… just for being their mom.
Sometimes we end up just seeking what we can get from the Lord. We need a new job or a new house. Or we need Him to fix our spouse or our children. And many times, we need Him to fix our health or the health of a relative or friend. And those things in and of themselves are not bad things to pray for. He wants us to cast all our cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7). But we need to also spend time just loving on Him and seeking His face. And when His answer is ‘no’, climb up into His lap, rest your head on His chest, and just cry. And He will let you linger there as long as you need Him to, because “He is still good.”