Understanding the power and importance of saying No, however, is a mark of maturity that often define one’s integrity.
In a 2013 Psychology Today article on The Power of No, Author Judith Sills, PH.D., a psychologist in private practice in Philadelphia, said, “We find No tough to dish out. Tough, but absolutely necessary. Because in the big picture, bottom line, we need to stick up for ourselves. No tests the health and equity of your closest relationships. If you feel you cannot say No, at least to some things, some of the time, then you are not being loved — you are being controlled.”
Sills describes being able to say No as “A moment of clear choice. It announces, however indirectly, something affirmative about you. ‘I will not sign’ — because that is not my truth. ‘I will not join your committee, help with your kids, review your project’— because I am committed to some important project of my own. ‘Count me out’ — because I’m not comfortable, not in agreement, not on the bandwagon. ‘No, thank you’ — because you might feel hurt if I turn down your invitation, but my needs take priority.”
She added, “It says that while each of us interacts with others, and loves, respects, and values those relationships, we do not and cannot allow ourselves always to be influenced by them. The strength we draw from saying No is that it underscores this hard truth of maturity: The buck stops here.
“No says, ‘This is who I am; this is what I value; this is what I will and will not do; this is how I will choose to act.’ We love others, give to others, cooperate with others, and please others, but we are, always and at the core, distinct and separate selves. We need No to carve and support that space.”
This is equally true in a healthy relationship with the Almighty. God has demonstrated His ability to say No when a request does not work in harmony with His will and purpose.
For example, after Moses was told by God that he would not enter the Promised Land for his failure at Numbers 20:10-12, Moses told the people at Deuteronomy 3:23-26, “At that time I earnestly prayed, ‘Sovereign Lord, I know that you have shown me only the beginning of the great and wonderful things you are going to do. There is no god in heaven or on earth who can do the mighty things that you have done! Let me cross the Jordan River, Lord, and see the fertile land on the other side, the beautiful hill country and the Lebanon Mountains.’ But because of you people the Lord was angry with me and would not listen. Instead, he said, ‘That’s enough! Don’t mention this again!” — Good News Translation. Moses did not enter the Promised Land. God said No.
The Apostle Paul admitted at 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, “I am forced to deal with a recurring problem. That problem, Satan’s messenger, torments me to keep me from being conceited. I begged the Lord three times to take it away from me. But he told me: “My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” — GOD’S WORD Translation. Paul accepted that his request was denied and the brief explanation that something more important was being accomplished.
Even Jesus Christ made a request that indicated a different desire, if possible, if his Heavenly Father was willing at Luke 22:42. Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” — New International Version. While it remained God’s will that Jesus suffer as a blasphemer while being tortured and executed unjustly, Jesus gave us the key to understanding and appreciating what we must do when God says No.
Like Jesus, true Christians want to make their request known to God, but ultimately pray for His will be done. Why? Because greater issues may be involved. This was clearly the case with God’s servant Job at Job Chapters 1 and 2. By saying No to certain requests God’s purpose may be accomplished in ways far beyond our understanding. Perhaps it settles a specific question about our personal integrity? Perhaps we are reaping what we have sown and God chooses not to interfere? Perhaps we are being trained by the things we suffer? There are many possibilities.
When God says No we can rest assured that it is in the best interest of our eternal welfare and to His everlasting glory. Is anything more important to true Christians? While it is always appropriate to ask for God’s help when we need it, is it right to assume that He will always answer yes to our request?
Answering No does not imply a lack of love. It may simply mean not at this time. Since God has an appointed time to address all of our health, material and financial concerns as well as all injustices, we can rejoice in knowing that the time is very near when we will hear and experience incredibly good news!
At that time the words of Psalm 145:16 will apply to our Heavenly Father: “You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” — GOD’S WORD Translation. No more pain. No more suffering. No more sickness. No more death. To that we can happily say with God, “Yes!”