When God Says No

“If ever we needed prayer, it is now. The pain is indescribable.” I read and reread Maegan’s post on Facebook in absolute shock and disbelief. No. There must have been a mistake. This can’t be. None of the thousands upon thousands who rallied in prayer the past several weeks expected the story to end this way.

Rain fell steadily from the normally bright blue skies here in Southern California the first Saturday in December. Our family, dressed in dark colors, joined hundreds of family and friends, filling a church to capacity. Love and sorrow flowed through the aisles as we gathered to honor and remember Josiah Robins. Heaven joined us in our grief.

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Family and friends were gifted only two short decades with this young man of character. Our lives intersected with Josiah’s family through our friendship with his aunt, uncle and cousins. Jonathan and Josiah had AP Lit class together their junior year. Michael played the game “Heroscape” with Josiah and his cousins late into the night. Two words I most associated with Josiah: kind and grounded. Josiah’s quiet strength and the unstoppable love of his extended family influenced people all across the country. We wept as we collectively celebrated a life so full of promise, suddenly cut short.

Early in November a motorcycle accident in Arkansas sent Josiah to the emergency room. After realizing the extent of his injuries, the doctors had him airlifted to Tulsa, Oklahoma. He spent his final weeks in the ICU. A star athlete throughout his young life, his healthy body made steady improvement even as his underwent surgeries including having both his legs amputated.

As word got out, the faithful rallied and prayed. And God heard prayers for Josiah, his siblings, his mom, his extended family at all hours, from coast to coast and around the world. We prayed in faith, asking and believing God for complete healing and restoration. Everything seemed to point to answered prayer.

Then a stroke.

Then he was gone.

God said “no.”

I’ve struggled over the outcome of how I thought Josiah’s story would end. In fact I haven’t written a blog post since his death. I’ve turned over a thousand times in my mind the way his short life abruptly came to a close and I can’t make sense of it. Josiah’s death wasn’t the result of gang violence, or alcohol or drugs. His life brimmed with possibilities. As a young African-American man, son to a single mom, big brother to his three younger siblings, his life stood in stark contrast to poor choices he could have made but didn’t. Instead, he leaned into God and with fierce loyalty he purposed to love and protect his family. He chose to live a life that made them proud. Grounded, he rose out of the difficulties he both experienced and witnessed, like gold.

I just don’t understand.

Looking for answers I return to my coffee stained, tear-stained, well-worn Bible. More than looking for answers, my eyes search for Him. And I have learned and continue to learn His ways are not my ways, His thoughts are not my thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). I cannot fully grasp all of who He is, but still I seek. In the pages of my Bible I catch glimpses of His heart. And of His mysterious ways.

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In Mark 5:1-20 I read about Jesus and the man from Gerasenes possessed by a legion of demons. The demons torment the man day and night causing him to cry out and gash himself with stones. When Jesus confronts the demons they ask him to send them into the pigs (v12-13).

He says yes.

The townspeople, familiar with the demon possessed man, find out about the deliverance and get scared. They ask Jesus to leave (v17).

He says yes.

The man who had been demon possessed, now calm, clothed, and clear-headed, asks to accompany Jesus (v18).

He says no.

Jesus loved the man He rescued and restored. But unlike the first two petitions He responded “no” to the man’s request. I realize how resistant I am to hear “no.” I unconsciously equate “no” with absence of love or favor.

When God says “no” to us He never stops loving. His “no” is never cruel or petty or haphazard. His good purposes cannot be thwarted. So I am left scanning the pages wondering who Jesus wanted this man to meet in Decapolis (v20).

This side of heaven, because we exist in the confines of time, we don’t see the outcome of each story. More often than not, especially the longer we walk the earth, we find ourselves with more questions than answers. Since we cannot see past the ups and downs and the twists and turns of life we have to wait for more of the story to unfold. Josiah’s aunt, my friend, Kierstin, shared at the memorial service, “Josiah’s death is not the end of the story.”

And while I believe Kierstin’s words to be true, my heart grieves deeply along with the Josiah’s family and friends of all Josiah’s missed milestones: his college graduation, awards, travels, birthdays, wedding, children. Holding both the grief and the hope, I can’t help but think God’s “no” to our prayers for Josiah involves so much more than we know at this point.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asks the Father if it’s possible for the cup of suffering and dying on the cross to pass him (Matthew 26:39).

God says no.

Even to His Beloved Son.

What is your reaction when God says no?

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10 thoughts on “When God Says No

  1. I am so sorry for your, and your community’s loss of what sounds like a most wonderful young man. I can’t even imagine the gaping hole that has been left while he waits in glory for us.

    Thank you for sharing this, Viv, and for pointing to mark 5:1-20 too. That has long been one of my favorite passages in mark, and you showed me something new in a scripture I already loved… And now love more,

  2. My brother died when he was 21 years old. His birthday is January 9th he would be 37 this year. Though I miss him everyday, I know that if he had survived his accident, he wouldn’t have been the same John that we knew. I am just glad everyday that God gave him to us.

    • I am so sorry to hear of your brother’s passing. I used to think at the end of the book of Job “they lived happily ever after” after God restored Job’s wealth and blessed him with more kids. Now I realize a day didn’t go by where Job did not miss his kids who died in chp 1. I admire your heart of being grateful for everyday God blessed you w/ your brother.

  3. I am deeply sorry about your loss. I have been following through one of my Facebook friends shared links. I was in the same situation 6 years ago. I lost my Joseph to a motorcycle accident at 18 years young. It was an end of the most beautiful dream that lasted 18 years. A young man with an unforgettable character and charisma so loving, a son that every mother would wish to have. I always ask God WHY he was not given a second chance at life. An answer that I am still waiting for and I don’t believe that it will be given directly at least not in this life. But I like to share with you a scripture that God shared with me as I opened the Bible for answers shortly after Joseph’s departure. :

    WISDOM 4. 7-15

    7 But the righteous man, though he die early, will be at rest. 8 For old age is not honored for length of time, nor measured by number of years; 9 but understanding is gray hair for men, and a blameless life is ripe old age.10 There was one who pleased God and was loved by him, and while living among sinners he was taken up.11 He was caught up lest evil change his understanding or guile deceive his soul. 12 For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind. 13 Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years; 14 for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took him quickly from the midst of wickedness. 15 Yet the peoples saw and did not understand, nor take such a thing to heart, that God’s grace and mercy are with his elect, and he watches over his holy ones.

    May Josiah’s soul be resting in Peace and praising God with all the Angels in Heaven.
    My heart feels your pain !!!
    http://WWW.GARABET.COM a website created for my son Joseph Garabet’s foundation to promote safety and awareness against the dangers ogf motor bikes. In our case Joseph borrowed his friend’s motorcycle without the proper training that cost him his life.

    • I am sorry to hear of Joseph’s passing. 18 years young is so true. Appreciate your willingness to help others through your foundation. Blessings to you.

  4. while the story is different, the ache of this could be my own… thanks for sharing this part of your journey. may our faithful and good Lord continue to heal and comfort you and Josiah’s family and loved ones. Continue to surrender and trust. that is the only place to find relief from the ache, the only place to find hope again.

    • Thank you for your encouragement to continue to surrender and trust. Healing of all sorts takes time. Thank you for remembering Josiah’s family and loved ones in your prayers.

  5. I just read that passage about the man with the demons last night, Viv. You’ve made it sink deeper into my heart with this post today. My prayers are with you and the family and friends who grieve, as well.

    Tim

    • Thanks, Tim. Really appreciate your prayers. What are the chances you would be reading the same passage? Blessings to your family as we travel into this new year.

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