As children begin to have independent prayer lives and study the bible, they begin to realize God is not the genie in the sky who must say yes to our every wish. Instead, God sometimes says “no” to us and our kids. Teaching your children how to understand and accept any and every “no” from God may mean the difference in whether or not they ultimately choose to follow Him.
To help your child understand why God is not “granting” a specific wish or desire from your child, there are a few basic principles you will need to repeat many times:
- God is in charge. As the one who made us and the world in which we live, God also set the rules. Just like your kids have to follow school rules whether they like them or not, ultimately they need to understand they need to follow God’s laws whether or not they like them.
- God does not take away their free choice to disobey Him. People seem to get confused about this quite a bit. Your kids can and will decide whether or not they will follow God and obey His commands. God may use circumstances, people and of course the Bible to strongly suggest they obey, but He will never force them.
- If they choose to disobey God and His commands, there will be consequences. Disobedience or sin as we call it, separates us from God. Ultimately, if not addressed by becoming a Christian and asking for forgiveness when we sin, that separation can become eternal. Sin often also has earthly consequences, even after God has forgiven us.
- God is not a “meanie”. As soon as people begin to realize God has forbidden something they want to do, they often accuse God of denying them something critical to their happiness. Recently, I read something that illuminated this for me. The author pointed out Satan won over Eve in part when he got her to question God’s motives for forbidding her to eat that one fruit. God wants us to have the best life possible in this fallen world, but the most important thing to God is that we spend eternity with Him in Heaven. For reasons only God may understand at times, His “no” can help us have that ultimate blessing. His motives are good and loving, just like He is. Teach your children to trust God’s motives.
- God’s Plans are perfect. Your children may not understand why God said no to a particular prayer request or won’t allow them to do something they want to do. They may never understand why while they are on earth. They need to trust though, God knows what is best for them and they should obey. Just like the toddler can’t understand what mom means by “don’t touch or you will get burned”. the smart toddler trusts mom and obeys. The toddler who questions mom’s wisdom and touches the hot stove, learns quickly the pain mom was trying to help him avoid. Train your children to trust God’s wisdom.
- What appears to be “No” may be “wait”. God also has perfect timing. He may know the thing your child wants may be better for her if she receives it down the road a bit. Your child may be devastated thinking God has said “no”. If that request is godly, remind your child that sometimes God makes us wait and we have to learn to trust His timing.
- Focus on God’s blessings and His “Yes” rather than His “No”. The same author pointed out another way Satan won over Eve. She was living in a practically perfect world. No death. No hard work to have food. No sin, so no marital problems. Tons of freedom to eat who knows how many other things. One rule as far as we can tell. Don’t eat one fruit. One. As soon as Satan got Eve to forget about all of her blessings and everything she could do and focus on the one thing she couldn’t have, he won. Teach your child to focus on the blessings and the freedom and not become obsessed with the one “no” from God.
- It’s okay to tell God they are sad or mad for the “no”. Your kids need to be respectful and remember God is in charge, but Psalms has more than one example when David wrote about not understanding why either God said “no” or wasn’t doing things in the way or time David wanted. Your child doesn’t need to bottle those emotions, but talk to God and let God help him process them in godly ways.
Hearing “no” isn’t fun for anyone. Don’t let it become a stumbling block in your child’s faith development. Teaching them some basic principles can help a “no” from God turn into a faith building experience instead.