When God’s Answer Is “No”

Jana Carlson

Jana Carlson

What if your husband never changes?

That question changed my life.

About 4 years into our marriage, things looked pretty bleak. We were literally on the brink of divorce and I thought we were doomed. In my mind, I felt there were only two options:

  1. Our marriage would end, or
  2. I’d be miserable for the rest of my life.

I was so incredibly desperate for change. I could not imagine how our marriage would survive unless my husband changed.

The Moment Everything Changed

Aimlessly driving around town after an argument, I was crying tears so big that I had to pull over. It was in that moment I pleaded with the Lord for a miracle.

What if your husband never changes?

That was God’s response to my desperate plea.

I felt like I’d been slapped in the face, kicked in the gut. I sat there in the car and tried to process what God had just said to me. It was not what I had expected to hear from Him at all!

But it’s what I needed.

We Can’t Go On Like This

After more tears and much thought, I realized that if I waited for Lee to change, I might be waiting forever. I didn’t want to do that. I also didn’t want our marriage to end. The only alternative was that I must change.

Up to that point, I had been trying to dictate Lee’s schedule, demanding that he spend certain amounts of time with me and the kids and on specific days. I belittled his parenting efforts and undermined him because I thought he was doing it wrong. I took over our finances because I felt his spending was unreasonable (even though I wasn’t earning a dime of it). Looking back now, I can’t blame him for being frustrated with me. That’s not what love and respect and support look like!

A Hard Truth

When God opened my eyes to the Truth of what was in my own heart, I realized that I had been walking in fear instead of faith.

My efforts to change Lee and control things were not actually done out of a desire to do what’s best for our family. Rather, I was acting out of a lack of trust that God was in control, that His plans are for our good.

Because things were not going the way I thought they should, because my desires for our family (which were good desires) didn’t seem to be coming to fruition, I didn’t believe that God was at work in my husband. I didn’t trust that God could take care of us if my husband wasn’t living out what I believed was God’s will for him. I didn’t have faith that God’s power was enough to provide and protect. I was so afraid of what would happen if I let go and let God take the reigns that I resisted anything and everything that felt insecure to me – which was almost our entire lives.

I was living as though the enemy had the upper hand. 

The Change In Me

When God said, “What if your husband never changes?” – when my eyes were opened to my own sin – I stopped frantically trying to control and manipulate and orchestrate things to bring about what I thought would cause my husband to turn a corner. Instead of waiting for him to change, I began to focus my energy and prayers on changing me, on my own heart and relationship with Christ.

I let go. I trusted God to deal with my husband directly – not through me. I let Lee make decisions about finances. I let him spend as much time doing his own thing as he wanted to without putting him on a guilt trip. And on the rare occasions when he wanted to spend time with me, I made sure I didn’t use that time to nag him or complain about anything – I chose to enjoy him instead.

God Answered My Prayer

That’s when the miracle began. It didn’t take long at all, and major changes started to happen. But they were not happening the way I thought they would. It didn’t look the way I’d envisioned and prayed for so long. The changes began in me – in my own heart.

Even if our marriage had never improved, even if Lee had never changed, the growth in my relationship with the Lord would have been enough.

Recognizing that He could be trusted and realizing that my good intentions were actually sinful fear instead of faith – that was life-changing.

What Is Your Hope?

Are you waiting for God to answer a heartfelt prayer? Are you living in hope of seeing a deep desire fulfilled?

Maybe you’re longing to get married. Maybe you’re longing for a child. Maybe you’re hoping for healing or waiting for an improvement in your financial situation. Are you longing for a restored relationship? Have you been praying for a prodigal to return home?

You know what you’re hoping for. And God knows, too. And it may be a good hope, even a godly hope.

The Challenge

May I challenge you with this… What if God’s answer is “no”? Or at least, “not yet.” What if God’s answer looks very different from what you’re envisioning?

Set aside your dream, vision, desire… lay down your request for a moment. Quiet your heart before the Lord and ask Him to examine your heart and reveal it to you. Are you willing to be convicted by His Spirit? Are you surrendered to His will for your life?

These are hard questions. This is deep heart work. It is not easy. In fact, it can be downright painful!

Hope That Does Not Disappoint

Be encouraged: God is at work, even if you can’t see it. God is not finished until He says “It is good.” He’s not giving up. He does have a plan and a purpose and it is for your good, even if it looks different than you’d expect (Proverbs 16:9; Proverbs 19:21; Jeremiah 29:11). His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). He is never late.

God wants you to know Him more, to learn of His sufficiency and His goodness and His grace and His faithfulness and His love.

Place your hope in Him alone – not in a dream of ideal circumstances.

Charles Spurgeon said:

“Do not look to your hope, but to Christ, the source of your hope.”

Is your hope in Him? Or is it in that thing, that circumstance, that person you’re hoping for?

4 Responses

  1. Excellent post!! I can relate to much of what you’ve written here. I went through a similar experience in my own marriage. Isn’t it funny that when we’re praying for God to change another, it’s usually US who needs to change?! God’s ways are mysterious after all. 😉
    Loved this beautiful testimony of surrender, and answered prayer!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment, Rachel. I find that prayer itself is more for me than anything… God knows what I need and He’s promised to provide it, so why do I pray? The process of prayer, the discipline of prayer… it changes ME. I love how He designed it to work like that!

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