If you have kids, you’ve probably (and hopefully) had to deal with saying no to your kids at some point in their lives. And if you don’t have kids, you must remember when you were a kid yourself and your parents had to tell you no. In the moment, the child in the situation rarely understands why their parents are denying them this thing that they want, whether it be a piece of cake or a potentially dangerous outing, or permission to turn on the TV. That’s why they commonly respond with, “Why not?”
All the child sees is an authority figure withholding that which they most desire at the moment, not knowing that the parent is doing it out of love. Parents know what’s best for their child because they’ve experienced most of what the child has and will experience. But as the child grows, matures, and develops a more functional brain, they begin to see just what their parent is talking about. Usually, they learn about more issues in the world, and they figure out that there are consequences to their actions, especially if they just do what they want all the time.
That’s the same type of growth we should hope to have with Our Lord in our spiritual lives. As we petition our Father for more and more things, we will see that we aren’t always granted the things that we ask for. So how do we handle the times when God says no? Do we pout like a child or do we realize that God is doing what he does because He loves us and He knows what’s best for us?
Patrick Conley welcomed Father Tom Wilson onto The Inner Life to discuss how we can prepare ourselves to accept God’s plan, even when he says no to our requests and desires.
Patrick began the conversation by asking Fr. Tom Wilson what it means when “God says no”. When we ask God for something or bring a special intention to Him and things don’t go our way, is He saying no to us? Is He even answering us at all?
“Oftentimes, when it appears that God is saying ‘No’, He is really saying, ‘Not yet’ or ‘Not now’,” said Fr. Tom. “I think me and you and most of our listeners could easily pull out from the depths of our history of prayer instances where we’ve asked God for something and it didn’t necessarily happen according to our timing, but it came later, or it was quite clear that He was preparing us for something better.” God knows best. He knows us better than we know ourselves. With years as practicing Catholics, hopefully, we’re accumulating years of prayer through which we will learn this lesson again and again: God knows best.
And when it comes down to our specific needs and desires clashing with God’s plan, who are we to prioritize ourselves? When God tells us no, not yet, or not now, we can either choose trust and cooperation or denial and disobedience. And when speaking about our ability to cooperate, it’s important to note that God allows us to choose to obey because He will never force us to comply with what is good or the right thing to do. It’s not that God is incapable of doing so, but when He made us, He granted us each free will and intellect. We are charged with using those gifts for His glory.
“So, we can respond inappropriately. We can go against God’s will. Even though there might be some benefit, or we see something good initially, it really is going to come down to, ‘Do we sacrifice our free will and our desire to do what we want, trusting that God has what is best for us in mind?’”
Many times, we resort to that child-like impulse: “No, I want it and I want it now.” We have a hard time sacrificing our material desires, and an equally hard time waiting for them. Sometimes God says yes, sometimes He says no, and still other times He’s telling us to wait. And how are we going to do that in this age where patience is a lost virtue? Can’t remember their name? Look it up. Need something from the store? Order it and it’ll be delivered to you immediately. Don’t have time for prayer or family? Skip it. Don’t want to wait until marriage? Indulge in your concupiscence.
We don’t need all the answers. We aren’t even capable of obtaining them all, so in a way, it can be a very freeing thing to understand that we are subject to God’s will, God’s plan, and sometimes, the decisions of others. Trusting in divine providence will allow us to disassociate ourselves from the things of this world in a healthy way. We can remain unattached to the material possessions and luxuries which hold us back and, in turn, we are much more likely to understand God’s answers to our prayers.
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