A simple word can carry such negative energy, yet it also can bring great comfort.
It can be the worst word to hear.
“No, I’m sorry you are not able to have your own children.”
“No, we aren’t able to offer you the job.”
“No, I’m just not interested in having a relationship right now.”
We are told no more often than we would like. Those two letters strung together to make one little word can have such a negative impact on our day, our week, or even our lives.
But what if I told you that no is one of my favorite words?
I don’t enjoy it when my husband says no to going out for ice cream or when my boss says “No, you can’t have that day off.”
I surely didn’t like it when my pastor told me as a young eighth-grader, “No, you cannot have Romans 8:38,39 as your confirmation verse. It’s too long.” (What he didn’t know was that I actually wanted verses 31-39. But I figured eight verses was too much to ask for.)
While his no was devastating to hear, it didn’t stop me from adoring those two letters strung together to make one little word, no, within these verses:
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39
There it is. No. Read it again. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No.”
As an insecure, 13–year–old, middle school girl, the word no unnerved me more than I’d like to admit. As that young girl I heard no in various sentences such as:
“No, we don’t want to be your friend.”
“No, you can’t have a cell phone.”
“No, you didn’t make the team.”
All of these nos made my heart sink and the tears come.
But God, he knew. Yes, he knew those two letters strung together to make one little word could make my heart sing and my spirit soar when he showed me the meaning of the message behind them.
In these verses I found my love for that one little word. He changed the connotation of that little word for me when he said, “No, my sweet child. Nothing will be able to separate you from my love.”
When my life seemed like it was over because I was the only kid in my class who didn’t have a cell phone, God said no. “Dear daughter, your cup overflows” (cf. Psalm 23:6).
When a fellow classmate declared that she wouldn’t be my friend and I felt alone, like nobody cared, God said no. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command” (cf. John 15:13,14).
When the coach said I didn’t make the team and I felt unwanted, like I wouldn’t ever be good enough, God said no. “Now you are the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
Who would have thought that one little word could leave us with two very different emotions? When a person tells us no, we are left with an empty feeling. When God tells us no, we are filled with his peace, with his joy, with his love. He reminds us, “ ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’ ” (Isaiah 55:8,9).
When there is a no in your life, God is saying “I have something better in store for you. You cannot understand my plans. I am greater than you and greater than all things of the world. Wait and see, my child. No, I am not granting you your wish. I am giving you something even greater.”
So, no! Those two letters strung together to make one little word are not meant to defeat us. They are meant to remind us that although not everything may go our way in this life, nothing can separate us from his love or his plans.
Maybe God says no to all your earthly yearnings. Maybe you never get the child you have prayed for as Hannah did in the Old Testament. Maybe you never find “the one” who you will spend your life with and raise a family. Possibly you’re stuck in a job you would rather run from like Jonah did.
But shall these things separate you from the love of Christ?
Listen to the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 8:28, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Ponder the fact that no means God is working in our lives. He is using us as integral parts of his perfect plan. The no from God doesn’t leave us empty. The no from God gives us purpose and peace in the truth that his ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts than our thoughts.
So listen again to the words of my desired confirmation passage from Romans 8: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Come what may in this short, little life, we are conquerors.
No, nothing can take us away from the love of God, nothing can alter our future home in God’s eternal kingdom. Our salvation has been won.
Now here is my question: Are you left feeling empty?
Sarah Proeber is a member at St. Mark, Green Bay, Wisconsin.
This article was adapted and reprinted with permission from holyhenhouse.com.
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Author: Sarah E. Proeber
Volume 105, Number 8
Issue: August 2018
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