When God Says “No”

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

What do you do when God says “no”?

What do you do when those prayers you’ve been lifting up finally receive an answer, and it isn’t what you had hoped? When the “no” comes at the end of heart-felt prayer about the very thing that makes your heart sing? Your work? Your health? Your relationships? Your passion? Your dream? What do you do when you hear “no”?


Three days ago, we received a “no” from God. In that moment, a prayer that has been ongoing for fourteen months came to an end. And I can’t help feeling a dream has died.

You see, my husband is a minister. For ten years he served as a pastor and has been a seminary professor for the last sixteen. Last year, a severe illness left him with a disability of several things needed for this calling. We long ago realized preaching was probably not going to be in David’s future. But the dream of teaching once again in a seminary classroom stayed strong in our hearts. We thought, “Just maybe….” While we knew it was possible that might never happen, we held out hope and lifted up prayers.

Receiving this sad news has, for a moment, taken the wind out of our sails. But just for a moment. For in the quiet stillness of a life slowed, we cry out to God all the more. Through our tears…through our fears.

What does a preacher/professor do with impaired speech, troublesome motor skills, and weakened memory? We don’t know. But of one thing we are sure–God knows. He knows it all. And as the quote above from Jeremiah 29:11 states, this is all a part of His plan. He isn’t surprised by any of it. And it is all in His control. What great peace this knowledge brings!

no wind, no sails


My husband’s new weaknesses have halted this part of our journey–that of actively teaching at the seminary, but these same weaknesses are preparing him for another part–one not yet known to us. God is transforming my husband–indeed, both of us–for our next assignment. And in His time, God will breathe new wind into our sails to move us in a new direction. He will place in our hearts a new dream. The dream that is necessary to compel us onward toward God’s new work…a work in keeping with this season in our life.

We may seem to be drifting at this point, but we are in fact still serving, still moving forward with God’s ultimate purpose–for us to bring Him glory in all we do.

sailing forth


Our inability to see where this is leading is okay, because God is always with us as our constant companion and guide. As long as we keep our focus on Him and follow where He leads us each day, we will be moving in the right direction.

And one morning, when the time Is right, God will open our eyes to see where He is leading us. We’ll see a new dream on the horizon.



For now, our mission is the same as that of every believer–to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds…and to love our neighbors with the love the Lord has shown to us. That is true no matter the calling, no matter the gifting, no matter the location or health or life situation. This is the Lord’s will for us–to bring Him glory in everything.

So when God says “no” in answer to a specific prayer request, I will give Him praise. For He has heard my prayer and answered. And He is leading us on to something else–another part of this great adventure.

When God says “no,” it can feel like the death of a dream. But in reality, it is simply the birth of something new.

I love these words from Isaiah 43:18-19: 

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

And so we work in the waiting. Waiting in expectation for this something new.

Trusting God…rejoicing always…praying continually…and being ever thankful.

For when God says “no,” He isn’t leaving you without. He is simply saying “I’ve got something else for you.”

In Christ’s love,
All Scripture from NI84.

"Ships that pass by..." by Gopal Vijayaraghavan via flickr (CC BY 2.0)
"Tucker Thompson sailing ship" by Jakob Steinschaden via flickr
     (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
"View from the bowsprit" by savagecat via flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Morning Horizon by Sabra Penley



Filed under Change, Expectation, Faith, God's Purpose, God's Timing, God's Works, Hope, Joy, New Beginning, Peace, Prayer, Thankfulness, Transforming, Trust, Waiting

33 responses to “When God Says “No”

  1. Thank you for sharing!


  2. Sabra, thank you for sharing! The death of one dream could be the birth of a bigger, better dream from God! Praying for you and your sweet husband as you navigate these new waters!


  3. Our prayers are with you and David. This is such a timely word in our society that says we deserve whatever we want and we want it now. Hearing no and waiting on the Lord are such key things for Christians to do! Thank you for sharing!


  4. Beautiful post Sabra and one that shows such a strong trust and hope in our Lord! He will not let you down, I know you already know this. The waiting is difficult but I am so sure God has great things in store for you and David, and I can’t wait to see how he blesses you. Will keep you and David in my prayers!


  5. juleslef

    Sabra, it seems as if our lives are running parallel, even though the situations are different. Isaiah 43:19 has been the verse that’s kept me focus these last 3-1/2 months as we’ve been praying and waiting. God has something glorious next for you and your husband, and will be preparing you both during this time of “drifting.” I’ll be praying for God’s will to be revealed. Hugs to you this day!


    • The Lord has been teaching a lot of us about praying and waiting, it seems. Thanks for your encouragement and prayers. Praying for you as well. Hugs right back to you!


  6. Susan

    Thank you for sharing your heart Sabra. Your words are so uplifting. I too love the words of hope and comfort in these verses. I’m praying for God’s will in your lives as He reveals the something else He has for you!


  7. I was also hoping and praying that y’all could stay here to teach because I love you both!


  8. kristine

    Thank you for sharing your heart and personal experiences, Sabra. I too believe several of us are having ‘shared’ experiences lately! I am sure God has a purpose, and through it we are encouraging one another with words. So awesome!


  9. I will be praying for you both Sabra. Thank you for sharing your faith through words; such an inspirational post. I love the line where you said “…it is simply the birth of something new.” Amen! That scripture passage in Isaiah? Just this morning around 1am I was writing it in a notebook, as I will be using it in a message when I speak at an event on Saturday. Seeing these verses again here? Awesome!


  10. Sabra,
    These words are beautiful. The thought that the death of a dream is just the birth of something new is such great insight and truth. And the thoughts about wind and sails and dreams all going together are symbolically beautiful. I believe this is my favorite post you have done. Just beautifully written. Can’t wait to see what God does in you and your husbands life. You are devoted to His work and He no doubt has an even bigger and better plan than you thought possible. Blessings to you both.


  11. Oh such beautiful words…thank you for sharing your heart, wounded and all with us!! I loved this especially – “When God says “no,” it can feel like the death of a dream. But in reality, it is simply the birth of something new.” So so true!! Have a blessed day!


  12. My one word this year is trust, and I have said that it feels as if God is working it for all it’s worth. I’ve been working through something that has been met with “no” 3 different ways, and it has become obvious that God is leading me through the maze by closing all the wrong doors. So I hold on and stand strong, trusting that He is well aware of the circumstances and needs. Just today, there was the potential for a result I never imagined. It’s just crazy enough an answer to be totally God 🙂 Trusting God will soon reveal your open door too. He withholds no good thing from His children!


  13. Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn, but God will bring good out of it. There will be opportunities to serve God. Patience is fruitful. In the meantime, find peace in His Word. I love your positive attitude about the situation. I’m sure that attitude is helpful to your husband.


  14. familysnows

    Thank you for encouraging others through your own challenging and painful “no”. Prayers for you and your husband as you await the birth of something new!


  15. This is so encouraging! Thank you for sharing honestly your heart, dream, and struggles.


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