And while I’m still not sure if Ignatian spirituality is for me, as I came to the end of the book, the chapters turned to praying through tough times, and these two questions stopped me in my tracks: “Are you still in if the answer is no? Are you willing to remain in a relationship with me [God] if the answer to your prayer requests is no?”
Although I don’t remember God ever asking me that, I have definitely been in situations in my life where I felt compelled to address that question. And while I’ve never answered that question definitively “no,” I have, at times I’m ashamed to admit, put my relationship with God on hold…stepped back as it were to figure things out. But as I continue on my journey of faith, I’ve discovered that my life WITHOUT God is much more difficult than it is when I walk WITH Him.
Looking at the world around me, I believe too many people answer those questions definitively and negatively. “No, God, I will not remain in relationship with you in the tough times especially if you don’t answer my prayers the way I want you to.” But if we stop to think about our lives, how often do we get what we want? How often have we been told “no?” How often have we told others “no?” When we get told “no” or when we say “no,” so often it’s to protect us from something. Perhaps our unanswered prayers (or when God tells us “no”) is for the same reason. As parents protect their children by saying “no,” God in His infinite wisdom is protecting us as well. And as we remain in relationship with those we love even when they tell us “no,” we need to remain in relationship with God who might also tell us “no.”
So as perhaps we should keep in mind the lyrics from country artist Garth Brooks sings, “Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers. Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs that just because he doesn't answer doesn't mean he don't care…Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers” as we remain in relationship with the One who loves us most…who loves us enough to tell us “no.”
Deborah Gretzinger (No R.E. Gretz)