When God’s Answer Is No

When God’s Answer is No

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell


North Fork Valley, Black Mountain, North Carolina

Last month while speaking in North Carolina, I borrowed a car and made a pilgrimage of sorts. Turning down North Fork Road, I parked on the side and got out for a magnificent view of the Blue Ridge mountains. This was the very spot where I had poured out my twenty-something heart to God in prayer – hoping His will would be the same as my will:

“God, all I want to do is marry Paul and live the rest of my days in these beautiful mountains. We could  build a log house right here on his land and raise our children in the country. I will even teach Bible studies for my church if You want me to. But please, please, please answer this prayer and I will spend the rest of my life serving You here in North Carolina! Amen.”


          While I didn’t exactly view God as a cosmic Santa Claus who ponied up with the loot after reviewing my list of gimmies, I was close. Hadn’t I waited for this godly man before falling in love? Hadn’t I finished college and worked for several years while volunteering as a church youth leader? Hadn’t I prayed for God to guide and direct me?

Yes to all of the above. So I was confident that My Plan would work out for my own version of ‘happily ever after.’


Top of Montreat’s Lookout Mountain 1976

God did answer my prayer that day. 
         He said No.
         In fact, He said No to all of it: Paul, the mountains, the log house, the kids, the country life, and North Carolina. 
          And I was crushed.

          I believe that God answers every heartfelt prayer either Yes, No or Wait. I love it when I get a Yes answer and can mark the date in my prayer notebook. It’s a lot harder to get a Wait answer, but it reminds me to continually bring those concerns and people before Him with prayers of hope.

           No answers are another thing entirely. There is finality and a reality that must be faced. Dreams die, bringing pain and confusion as companions in the aftermath. I felt all those things initially when God said No to me back in my twenties.

           But I mustered courage to move forward with my life, believing the promise that “No good thing does He withhold from those whose walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84.11)
           I moved to Boston for a seminary degree. Journalism work took me to Chicago and Thailand. Then I served as a missions pastor in San Francisco, traveling around the world twice before I was thirty. I married Mike, moved to Seattle and began raising children. nohartfordNorth Carolina seemed very far away, and in the meantime, life held many surprises and challenges.
            Today I live near a Connecticut city, not in the Carolina countryside. Mike and I are about to celebrate our 31st anniversary with our six kids and brilliant grandgirl. Yes, I do teach Bible studies, but I also speak to many people across the country through my Encouraging Words speaking ministry. And, grace upon grace, my eleventh book was just published.

             My life looks nothing like the one I prayed for so long ago.


Back ‘home’ in Montreat NC 2015

              I’m confident that one of the reasons God said No to that prayer in the mountains was that, for me, that particular vision was too small. To grant those desires would have allowed me to settle for what was comfortable, rather than take risks and follow God into some challenging and ‘impossible’ situations. 
               My world didn’t end when God answered my prayers with No. Instead, those losses opened me up to be filled with other people and new experiences. 
              Has God said No or Wait to one of the deepest desires of your heart?                                       Do you find yourself uttering only ‘safe’ prayers?

May I encourage you to keep praying the desires of your heart and laying bold requests before His throne of grace. But always, always, conclude with the biblical mandate “Thy will be done.” 

God answers every heartfelt prayer in His way and in His timing. For our good.

nopraise                Last month when I stood on the side of the road I prayed again. This time, thanking God for the many years of His guidance and provision in ways I could never have imagined way back in my twenties.

Then I drove back into my life, understanding anew that No can indeed be a good answer.

under the mercy, Cindy

 ©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 
NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!
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10 Responses to When God’s Answer Is No

  1. Thank you for sharing so deeply and richly.

  2. Betsy West says:

    This is very encouraging! Thank you!

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Jan Thorpe says:

    Hi Cindy,
    Great post, April 23. Thank you for your encouraging words. How well I can relate to that.
    john and I are in Dhaka for a few days, getting restocked on important items like coffee(!!!) and getting refueled emotionally and spiritually. I’ve filled the next coupe days with coffee dates and lunch dates with friends who live in Dhaka. Our social life and circle of friends in Rajshahi is quite small and doesn’t quite meet the needs of an extrovert like me so I need these occasional trips to Dhaka! We try to plan our Dhaka trips to include a Friday (the weekly holiday here) so that we can attend the international church. That’s also a huge great.
    We saw on our donor report that you and Michael gave a couple months ago. thank you so much. We are blessed by your gift, your friendship, your encouragement.
    I will make a trip back to the states again this summer to see family. aybe we can meet up. That would be a blessing. With love, Jan


  4. Lorenda Dunham says:

    Thank you Lucinda for your encouraging words this morning!

  5. Jim Douglas says:

    Cindy- I always enjoy your blogs. You really do have a marvelous gift of writing, and I am so glad that you are using it to Gods glory! I particularly enjoy your writing because I know so many folks you write about as our lives have crossed with so many people and places….I always take my bike with me when I go to Montreat. I always bike on North Fork Road and I know the wonderful view you referenced.
    When I go to Montreat, I usually bike up to Monkey Bottom on Greybeard Rd. and walk into the picnic area that the Jones family created with a plaque to honor Catherine and other family members. I quietly say a prayer for her family, Sam and her children and grandchildren…
    Iam planning a “bucket list” trip to VA in June. I plan to fly to VA and drive over to Jefferson’s Monticello…I have always wanted to see it…I will visit a couple of architecturally important plantations along the James River. I plan to walk on the beach at Virginia Beach and spend the balance of the time with Dave and Kathy in Williamsburg where I also hope to see some old friends. If time allows, I may try to have lunch with Charlie Gwaltney in Richmond where he lives. I am greatly looking forward to this adventure!
    I do worry about you a bit….you stay so busy…teaching school, traveling to your speaking engagements, writing your next books…I get exhausted reading about it all! I hope that you do plan time to relax a bit! How is Mike liking retirement?
    Regards to all and I hope that our paths might cross again soon! Jim

  6. Michael McDowell says:

    An inspiring reminder that “God’s ways are higher than our our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts”. Is 55:9 and this is so assuring & good!

  7. maggierowe says:

    A testimony to the truly amazing life God had for you all along, Cindy. Montreat was in your past; we pray it might be in our future someday.

    • I’ve been at work all day and just now saw all your comments and I thank each of you for reading the blog. You know, sometimes when we revisit a significant place in our life story, we are reminded of spiritual lessons learned way back when we were really, really young. This is sort of like that — I am certainly NOT the first person to experience the end of a relationship I had hoped was more permanent! Smile. But at the time it was so significant — my choices were to either become bitter or better the rest of my life, or at least for the next step. THAT is what helped me learn more about God’s love and will and provision and thus helped me with far bigger NOs in my life since my twenties. So…. all this to say, that even though this little memoir blog seems like a small thing now, it was a big thing then. I believe with all my heart that we should pray about everything and learn that whatever answer God gives, He will give us exactly what we need to live the ensuing ramifications. Thanks again, each one of you, for reading my weekly Encouraging Words and taking time to post a comment. under the mercy, Cindy

  8. Debbie Lee says:

    No offense, but it’s one thing when God says no to the hubby and the house, but a different struggle altogether when he says no to pleas for one’s child who suffers from schizophrenia.

    • Thanks Debbie for your honest comment and even though I don’t know you and your situation, I totally understand that when the answer is No with regards to the suffering of someone we love, it involves deep pain within and without. I, too, have had far more serious No answers in my life, especially in relationship to family members who suffer, but those are not my stories to tell (at least not publically). So in my little blog I will sometimes use a memoir type story of an ordinary incident in which God clearly taught me a lesson of faith, hoping that the principles can be transferable to a variety of readers who are dealing with their own situations. See my response earlier today for more about that. Our God is So Big. May He wrap you in His arms of love and care and give you His presence and power. under the mercy, Cindy

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