Have you ever heard the voice of God so clear you couldn't ignore it?
Yeah, me either.
Maybe you have heard his audible voice. That's awesome! I really do believe you've heard it if you say you have. But for those of us who haven't...
...have you ever heard the voice of God so clear you couldn't ignore it? But you weren't hearing anything?
Yeah. I have too.
It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it doesn't quickly leave my usually forgetful mind.
The most recent time, I was in Estes Park camping for a week with my fam. It was probably the fourth or fifth day, and it had rained every afternoon so far. And not just a light mountain sprinkle, but a full-on thunderstorm. Every day. Hail sometimes included.
Oh, yes, I was excited. Many of you have heard me complaining via social media about the lack of thunderstorms - nay, any rain at all - out here on the West Coast. California is indeed in a drought, people. I've seen it with my own dry eyeballs.
However, we were tent camping. I won't go into the drama of that here. Ask my dad, he'll tell ya all about it. (Good ol' Butch. Bless you for enduring that week with even a nugget of dignity and sanity.)
And on this particular day, I had just nestled in my hammock (with a mountain view, might I add), opened my journal, and tried to begin to get in some quiet time to still my restless heart.
The sky immediately started to spit on me.
Naturally, I prayed under my breath: "Please hold it off."
Almost instantaneously, this was his response: "The mountain needs rain."
It practically echoed in my chest. I wrote it down without thinking.
In other words: "No."
Have you ever heard God tell you flat out, "no"?
Because he is gentle and kind and sympathizes with our weakness, it usually doesn't come out quite like that. But you probably still know when he's trying to get that point across.
Despite his gentle response, I was kind of annoyed.
Like, honestly? I was literally sitting down for the purpose of spending time with him. And he made it start to rain. (WAH.)
Come on, dude. (Is referring to God as "dude" irreverent? Probably.)
But I was particularly irritable that day. Had a particularly wandering mind and a particularly crabby disposition. Why wouldn't he grant my request to hold the rain off? I needed to find my FREAKIN' center. (Whatever that means.)
But the mountain needed rain.
I later found out that it hadn't rained a single drop the previous six weeks. And then the day we arrived, the skies let loose.
"The mountain needs rain."
In other words: "It's not all about you."
This theme came into the light multiple times during my mountain stay.
My sweet cousin Erika (wise beyond her years, bless her. If you're reading this, I love ya. You're my favorite. Don't tell the others.) spoke some spitfire truth about how we are one tree in a forest of millions. That's how we're meant to see our lives. Zoomed-out, big-picture stuff. God cares about the littlest tree, alright. You can be sure of that. But he cares about the forest, too. He has a grander story in mind. Of grandeur. Of unity. Of redemption.
"The mountain needs rain."
In other words: "I've got a better idea."
I sought shelter in one of the aunt & uncles' campers and had conversations that lifted my chin and kept my tender heart dry.
Sometimes we ask God for things that we are certain would be good for us. We're certain we're on the same wavelength with God. After all, we know ourselves and what we need better than anyone, right?
But maybe not.
Because sometimes, despite our best intentions and our self-assured good interests, God still says, "The mountain needs rain."
And we don't understand.
And we won't. Maybe not for days, weeks, months, years, decades.
Sometimes hours, when an Estes native informs you that they've been in a six-week drought.
God has actually said "no" to me about quite a few things since I started this post-grad journey back in May. Things that I was certain he wanted for me.
And though the gratefulness stings as it rises in my heart and often leaves an ache, I am so grateful that he did. I am so grateful for those "no's."
Sometimes God's "no" is better than any other "yes" you could hear.
But before I realized it was God speaking, it felt like rejection.
It felt like hearing, "sorry, we picked someone better," over and over and over again.
It felt like my plans were crumbling.
It felt like I was doing something wrong because nothing was going right from where I stood.
And, if I'm being totally honest, it felt like God was abandoning me.
It was as if I chose the wrong path, so he dipped out.
It sounded like this: "Sorry, kid. This mountain needs rain. Maybe if you woulda picked the right mountain, you'd have stayed dry."
Can I tell you something I've needed to hear every single day? Can you promise to write it down, to remember it, to tell yourself when you forget?
God does not dip out. Ever.
In our life with God, we take right turns, left turns, u-turns. But as long as we are pursuing him every day, seeking his will, getting in his word, there are no wrong turns.
Blatant sin? That's a wrong turn. You do the opposite of what God says in his Word to do and you are surely going the wrong way down a one-way.
There might be that one door you keep trying to open, but it's locked.
That's probably God saying "no."
But let me tell you this: he won't even let you walk through a door he's not behind.
What about when there are three open doors and you have to choose one?
God's on the other side of all three. He's on the other side of the doors you can't even see yet.
Take a deep breath. Let that sink in. There's another side to this whole thing that can't be ignored.
Did you know that Satan loves to say "yes"?
I hope you took that deep breath.
Give me a minute to explain.
Satan's favorite lie to tell is that he doesn't exist. His second favorite lie is that God isn't where you are right at this very moment. That he doesn't care. That he dipped out. That you're not worth it, that you're better off on your own anyways.
Satan's favorite lie is to respond to your fears with a resounding "yes."
"Yes, God has left you."
"Yes, you're alone."
"Yes, you screwed up and you can't re-do this one."
"Yes, you deserve to feel this shame about your sin."
Pardon my French, dear friends, but we've got to cut that shit out.
One of the hardest lessons I'm learning is that I have to actively fight against these lies, these "yesses" from Satan.
Do you know that Satan has specific yesses he tries to tell you, usually in moments when God's trying to tell you an important truth? He doesn't just barrage you with random lies like, "you smell bad," or, "you suck at cooking." No. Satan isn't that shallow.
Think about it. You know the lies that get stuck in your mind like deep splinters hidden beneath three layers of skin on the bottom of your foot. The recurring ones. The really dark ones, the ones that seem to attack your identity, trying to disintegrate you from the inside out.
Those are Satan's lies. His yesses.
So find them. And cut them out. Immediately. Do not gratify the enemy for one second by giving in and allowing them to fester. Cry out to Jesus when you are two weak to pull out the splinters. He has some pretty damn good tweezers, promise.
Satan will try to affirm every untrue thing you believe about yourself.
We need to counter his yesses with resounding no's that are straight from God himself.
Take another deep breath with me.
This is hard stuff. It's hard when you're dried out and bone-tired and puffy-eyed and ready to throw up your hands, pack it all up, and head home.
But as people hard after Jesus' heart, we have to be willing to embrace God's no's and kick Satan's yesses to high hell.
Because that's what Jesus did. The night before his brutal murder, he begged God to change his mind. To find another way. To spare him the unbearable suffering.
Spoiler alert: God said "no."
Jesus' response? "I will keep walking."
And walk he did. All the way to the cross.
For you. For me.
What is God saying "no" to you about?
What is Satan trying to say "yes" to you about?
How can you learn to see God's "no's" as the gifts of grace that they are?
How can you fight off Satan's "yesses" without giving in?
I promise you, friend, because I know it from direct experience - God's "no" is so, so, SO much better than any "yes" anyone else can ever give us. And if that doesn't knock your socks right off, your socks are too tight.
I want to leave you with a couple truths that will hopefully encourage you to keep walking.
The first one is about being human.
The second one is about being human, too.
Here's the first one.
It is okay to be disappointed when God says "no."
It's okay to cry. To wail. To mourn what you feel you've lost. To cry out in anger, frustration, confusion, every other emotion. God can take it. More than that - he can feel what you're feeling.
I had a very wise friend encourage me the other day with two things:
1) It is okay to mourn in seasons where God says "no." 2) Nothing is wasted in seasons where God says "no."
In fact, when you're doing life with God, nothing is ever wasted.
Nothing. Not even your worst day.
Not even days like today, where it feels hard to get out of bed because there's not a lot to get excited about or too much to be anxious about.
If today is one of those days where the only hope you have is in the fact that Jesus lived the perfect life you never could and died the perfect death so you could be in perfect communion with him and the Father and have his Spirit inside of you,
today is better than any other day lived apart from that fact.
So let Jesus cup your face in his hands and lift your head to heaven. He knows you're weak. He knows you're human, and he gives you permission to be just that.
Here's the second truth.
Your humanness doesn't last forever.
God's toughest "no" - the one he told to his own Son the night before he was murdered, the one that caused his Son to humanly weep and sweat drops of his precious blood - led to the best "yesses" imaginable.
Yes, death was defeated.
Yes, Jesus rose from the grave.
Yes, we are his forever.
Yes, there will be a day when there will be no disappointment. There will be no struggle against the lies of Satan. There will be no devastating tide of human emotion.
Yes, all of the nasty, dark, heavy, ugly parts of our humanness will be wiped away.
So let's walk forward as people who know a good "no" and a bad "yes" when we hear one, as people who hope in the ultimate "yesses," the ones who come from the One whose "no's" are just as full of grace.
"You taught my feet to dance upon disappointment, and I will worship you." -Amanda Cook, Heroes