Tuesday, April 05, 2011

When God says no.

Have you ever prayed for something only to have God say, "no"? Have you ever offered sacrifices, begun prayer chains, prayed novenas to every known saint in Heaven for an intention only to have God say, "no"? I have and I am willing to bet that you have too.

Most recently I prayed, as did many of you, that my daughter Catherine would be healed of the cancer in her right eye and that it would not need to be removed. We prayed hard everyday. We offered to God sacrifices and some of them heroic. We prayed novena after novena to Lucy, Peregrine and others. In the end, God said, "no".

Before that many of you prayed with us when Catherine was in the womb. You prayed with us during her first, second, and third surgery. You prayed for her healing. You prayed while she spent the first four months of her life in the hospital. You prayed for miracles and God said, "no".

So, how do we respond when our loving God says, "no"? How do we respond when unbelievers say, "where is your God?" I believe that our response depends on our relationship with Him. Like any human relationship, if the love between persons is shallow or superficial, it doesn't take much for the relationship to be destroyed or at least severely injured.

For the first few months of Catherine's life I viewed God as a miracle dispensing machine. I thought that if I asked hard enough, said enough prayers, offered enough sacrifices...He'd cough up a good 'ol miracle. After all, I reasoned, with the state of faith today, couldn't He use the attention of a bona fide miracle to get more souls on His side? I argued, pleaded, threatened. In short, I threw a good, solid, spiritual temper tantrum. He said "no" and I ran off to my room and vowed to never talk to Him again.

I struggled with my faith after that. I struggled with who I was and who He was. Through it all, He was a patient, loving Father awaiting my return. When I realized that He was a loving Father, I also realized that I was behaving like a spoiled child and that our relationship was not one of love and trust.

In His goodness, He helped me realize this shortly before Catherine was diagnosed with retinoblastoma. My prayers this time were different. I prayed earnestly for a miracle but only if it was His will. I vowed to trust Him no matter the outcome.

In prayer one day, like a little child I asked Him, "why do you say "no" so often?" He had two answers - 1) You ask for snakes, 2) I say "yes" far more than I say "no". Snakes? The answer came to me in an instant. He was referring to the passage in Matthew when Jesus says, "...if he asks for a fish, will you give him a serpent?" God was giving me the opposite and true statement saying essentially, "you asked for a snake, I want to give you a fish."

I realized that God has other plans for me and for Catherine. A miracle cure of her eye was not part of that plan and that I need to trust that what he will do through her will be far greater. God only says "no" when we ask for snakes.

I thought long and hard about Him saying "yes" far more than He says "no" but just couldn't see it at the time but I accepted it. It wasn't until our family was returning from a long trip that I realized how often He does say "yes". As we pulled into the drive I was moved to give thanks for the safe trip we had and I asked everyone to say a prayer of thanksgiving with me. It was at that moment I heard Him whisper, "see, I said yes again." I thought of the prayers we had said 16 hours earlier asking for a safe passage and realized that yes indeed He does say "yes" far more than "no". The problem is that I am far less observant and thankful than I should be when He does say "yes".

As I write this I can think of hundreds of little prayers offered to God and the positive answers He gave. I am ashamed that I went on my merry way, like the other 9 lepers, not returning to thank Him each and every time. I pray for the grace to be more thankful. We all prayed for good results from Catherine's tests and that she wouldn't need Chemo, He said "yes".

God says "yes" far more often than He says "no" but I must retrain myself to see these little miracles and answers to prayer. He says "no" because He loves me and has a better plan for my life and the lives of those entrusted to me. God, give me the grace to be more thankful for both your "yes" and your "no".


Sarah Reinhard said...

Jim, I really needed to read this today. You all remain in my prayers.

Unknown said...

Oh, Jim. You are a good man. A good son.

Lisa Julia Photography said...

You have NO IDEA how many people you've helped today by sharing this.
May God continue to bless you and your family. Thank you for being strong and for 'keeping the faith' especially in difficult times. You are an inspiration.

James M. Hahn said...

Thank you all for reading. God is good, all the time.

Kristen J said...

Beautiful message and something I needed to hear! God bless you!

RobieFin said...

James, thanks for this inspirational message. May God continue to rest upon Catherine and you and your family.

Stina said...

Wonderful post. Thank you!

Maria said...

I just found your blog via Stranger in a Strangeland. He cites your blog on his blog roll. Know that God is always on your side. He must love you and your daughter so much. The passage below is from Holy The Firm, by Annie Dillard. It seems the angels must have written it for you:

Annie Dillard writes, in Holy The Firm:

His disciples asked Christ about a roadside beggar who had been blind from birth, " Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" And Christ, who spat on the ground, made a mud of his spittle and clay, plastered the mud over the man's eyes, and gave him sight , answered, "Neither this man has sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest to him." Really? If we take this answer to refer to the affliction itself--and not the subsequent cure--as "God's work made manifest,"then we have, along with "Not as the world gives do I give unto you," two meager, baffling and infuriating answers to one of the few questions worth asking, to wit, What in Sam Hill is going on here?

The works of God made manifest? Do we really need more victims to remind us that we are all vitims ? Is this some sort of parade for which a conquering army shines up its terrible guns and rolls them up and down the street for people to see? Do we need blind men stumbling about, and little flame faced children, to remind us what God can--and will--do?

...Yes in fact, we do. We do need reminding, not of what God can do, but of what he cannot do, or will not, which is to catch time in its free fall and steal a nickel's worth of sense into our days. And we need reminding of what time can do, must only do: churn out enormity at random and beat it, with God's blessing, into our heads: that we are created, created, sojourners in a land we did not make, a land with no meaning of itself and no meaning we can make for it alone. Who are we to demand explanations of God ? ( And what monsters of perfections should we be if we did not?). We forget ourselves, picnicking; we forget where we are. There is no such thing as a freak accident. "God is at home," says Meister Eckhart, "We are in the far country."

God Bless You,


Julie said...

Oh Jim,
You don't know how much I need some comfort right now. I have been struggling so much lately. I have lost so many people to death that I have prayed for. I really think God is missing me and sent me to your blog this morning. Thank you for the message of hope.
God Bless you and your family.

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