“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12: 8-9 NIV)
Soon after I became a follower of Christ, I was invited to a gathering to pray for a woman who had been bedridden for many years. Her whole body had muscular issues that prevented her from walking and resulted in her arms, legs, and upper torso becoming twisted and contorted. Despite her condition, she was a prayer warrior in her community. We assembled to pray for the woman who had prayed for many. We prayed that night and for weeks afterwards. Several months later we were told of her miraculous healing and how she was taking her story on the road to share with others. Around the same time she was healed, we were invited to pray for the son of an American pastor who had leukaemia. It may have been two weeks after we started to pray that we learnt the young boy died. I could not help but wonder why God healed the woman but not the child.
You cannot be a Christian for very long before this happens to you: you pray for something, and it happens. And then you pray for something else, and it does not. You get a dramatic yes and a distressing no.
To be a Christian is to experience this reality in prayer: sometimes God says YES, and sometimes God says NO!
How do we respond to this? As people who pray, it is fantastic to get a yes. But How do we face the no? We must learn about this because if we do not and hit a NO, we may stop praying, get fatalistic, blame ourselves for not having enough faith, or decide there is no God like we thought there was. But if we learn from God’s Word how to respond to a NO to our prayer, we will move on to an even closer relationship with God.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul shares his prayer story. He asked God to remove the thorn in his flesh, an issue Paul felt was interfering with his ministry and life. He prayed three times, asking God to take this affliction away, and he received a NO each time. But the last no, helped Paul understand why NO was the answer. Here is the response he received because he didn’t stop praying, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12: 8-9 NIV). He learnt God’s No is better than his yes.
What is your thorn?
Is it financial pressure? Always barely making it.
A Physical condition? A Mental condition? Anxiety, depression, PTSD?
A person in your life who puts you down or abuses you, who has become your enemy?
A broken relationship?
A job that leaves you feeling spent and devalued?
Is it racial injustice, the feeling of being constantly on edge?
For the thorn in your life, are you still praying to God, asking him to take it away or have you given up? Keep asking God until you get a yes or the grace to live with the no. We should all pray for yes, over and over, and thank God for how often he gives us yes. But, if the power of Christ will rest on us more because of the no, then bring on the no.
Have you experienced what it is like to live with the daily grace of Jesus Christ in your weakness, lifting you like a life preserver in a stormy sea? Have you ever been in a time that was so bitter, and then you tasted the sweet and consoling presence of Jesus Christ? Then you will know that as good as YES is, God can give us a NO with so much grace we can even rejoice in our weaknesses.
Here is the bottom line: Whenever you and we have a thorn in our life, we must keep asking till we get a yes—or until God gives us the grace to live with NO.