To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I was utterly crushed.
Since then, God has said “no” to other dreams, or delayed them indefinitely. These desires are much more potent than my desire for a dog of my own, and the “no” sometimes feels like physical pain. (In the case of prayers for physical healing, I suppose it would be physical pain.)
I have asked many times: What do I do when God says no?
Don't compare yourself to other people.
When God says “no” to me, He often says “yes” to others about the very same request. It can feel like a personal slap in the face.
It is like the woman who has cannot have a child, but who hears of yet another unwanted teenage pregnancy, and who seems to encounter pregnant women or mothers every time she visits the grocery store.
Why does God give so lavishly to others, some of whom have not longed for this desire as greatly, or prepared for the fulfillment of the desire as diligently? Why does He answer the prayers of some early in life, but makes others wait for decades—or for never?
It’s impossible not to compare at times, but I should catch myself when I do. Envy is a trap. It destroys peace and gratitude, it blinds me to the blessings I already have, it blinds me to the struggles of others, it isolates me, and it strains relationships. To the best of my ability, and through God’s power, I must seek to rejoice with those who rejoice (yes, even when God grants them the same desire He denies me) and weep with those who weep (yes, even when their pain seem so much less than mine).
Don't assume there's something wrong with you.
Is the Lord picking favorites? Is there something wrong with me? Have I not sought His will enough or obeyed well enough? Is there something He expects me to do before He will say “yes”?
The questions are endless, and, honestly, they only destroy my peace. I know of people who didn’t deserve “yes,” yet who got it anyway, and I know of people who would use their “yes” wisely and to God’s glory, yet who do not receive it.
The speculation of “Maybe God is waiting for me to do X before He grants Y” is not simply useless, but dangerous. Maybe it has nothing to do with me and what I'm doing. For example, maybe it has to do with someone else. Maybe He won’t grant my desire because, if fulfilled, it would remove my influence from a particular person who needs it.
He has many reasons, but one goal: my ultimate good. And that is why I should:
Continue to trust the Lord.
Look, I don’t know if God is always fair. But I know that He is good, so whether He is fair or unfair is irrelevant. Whatever He has done or will do is good, and for my good. If I, being an earthly giver, desire to use my limited abilities to give good gifts to those I love, then God, being a heavenly giver, must desire to use His limitless abilities to give good gifts to those He loves.
That doesn’t mean He always chooses the easy road for me. Sometimes He deliberately takes me through pain, that the end result may be better than it would have been otherwise. When God refused to give me a dog, for example, I soon discovered that my college work and my jobs monopolized my time. God’s “no” saved me from the significant problem of neglecting the dog under my care (and likely burdening my family simultaneously).
GOd said "no" to Jesus.
Jesus begged in the garden of Gethsemane for God to find another way to save the human race. He became so distressed that he actually sweated blood. He knew that salvation would cost everything He had ever loved. He would become the horror that He had avoided all His life—an embodiment of sin. He would be utterly rejected by His own father, the person He loved most in the world. He would face the betrayal of His friends, the tortures of men, and the unbearable punishment deserved by others. No prayer for the granting of a desire has ever been more heartfelt or desperate.
But God said “no.” He said “no” to His weeping, terrified Son. He said “no” for my sake.
And Jesus replied, “Not my will, but Yours.”
Jesus’ response floors me every time I read it. When God says “no” to me, it hurts like nothing else hurts. Yet here I have an example of perfect trust and obedience, despite strong feelings.
Oh, Father, you know my heart. You know the intensity of my desires. But perhaps this is why You say no: to teach me the essence of Christ’s heart in Gethsemane, and the trust of a soul that places You first, and lets all else go. Let me learn this well, and love You more.
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.