It's Okay to Say No

By Becky Beresford

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Occasionally NO can be my best friend, but most of the time I hate it. I hate when their tears start streaming. I hate when they stomp their feet and slam their doors. I hate being called mean, when my heart beats tenderly for them. I’m their mama and they are my babies, and I never want to do anything that will hurt them. And yet, sometimes I need to say NO. Even if they don’t understand why, it needs to be done because preventing future pain is more important than avoiding negative reactions. But trust me, mama friend. I still hate it.

Truth be told, this has been going on for a long time; long before I was gifted with my boys. I’ve always liked to be liked. A lot. My life has been filled with the desire to please people at all costs in order to earn their love. When others dislike me, I wrestle with that reality until something inside of me breaks. Letting people down and disappointing others makes me feel like I am failing at kindness. I start to think that in order to show my care, I need to satisfy their happiness quota. I need to let them have whatever they want, whatever makes them smile and say thank you. But being a mama doesn’t work that way. Being a parent or friend or woman doesn’t work that way. And being a follower of Jesus doesn’t work that way either.

Why God Withholds

Believe it or not, God doesn’t give us everything we want. I know, it’s a real shocker. But could we just close our eyes for a minute and imagine what our lives would look like if everything we prayed for happened instantaneously?  If everything we desired was delivered to us on a shiny plate from heaven?  How different would our worlds be?  How different would we be?  Because I’m going to say something bold right now…something that will need to be repeated in my own mind over and over, especially when my prayers seem to go unanswered.

There is beauty in the withholding.  

There is purpose and passion behind God’s ways, and it’s not that He is harsh or wants to see us sad or lacking. On the contrary—God only wants abundance for His children. But if withholding something good is the only way to bring about His ultimate BEST, then He will ask us to trust Him through the process. He will ask us to trust Him as He says NO or maybe or not yet.

Jesus Prays for the Cup to Pass

Thankfully, Jesus wasn’t like me in the crowd-pleasing department. He often stepped away when people wanted to praise Him and make Him an earthly king. Instead of being consumed with others’ opinions, He fixed His eyes on the goodness of His Father, trusting in His greater plan. But there was a moment when Jesus wished circumstances could have changed. As the final hours of His life dwindled, He entered the Garden of Gethsemane filled with intense sorrow. From the depths of His heart He pleaded with His Father. Face to the ground, Jesus prayed,

My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.
— Matthew 26:39 (NIV)
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Close your eyes again, Dear Reader. Imagine this pivotal scene. Either answer given would change the course of humanity. Jesus is raw and real and brings His request before the Most High, not as a servant but as a son. His ONLY Son. And yet, the Father knew. He saw the dawning victory and coming glory. He saw the powers of darkness biting at the bit, ready to destroy the Light of the world. But knew He had to say NO. Even though it would break both of their hearts, He knew He had to send His own child to the Cross. He had to refuse the request of His Son in order to usher in what was BEST: Forgiveness. Freedom. Restoration. Redemption. It was the ultimate act of love, and it was ushered in by a holy NO. He denied His own child for the sake of relationship. God said NO to Jesus so He could say YES to us. And it was the most beautiful display of devotion this world has ever seen.

A Sacred No

Some NO’s are sacred. Some refusals are needed. They may not be easy, but they have the ability to bring about greater and grander things. 

Remember that mama and make sure you stand tall. If our Creator recognizes the importance of withholding, it’s okay if we do too. We are not being cruel when we choose to say NO. We shouldn’t feel guilty or paint ourselves as unkind. Instead, we are doing what we are called to do. We are nurturing and guiding and discerning and protecting. We are building our children’s trust as we place our faith in the Father.

 He is incredibly good. He is abundant in love. May ALL of our answers lead right back to Him.