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March 10, 2017

When God Says No

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Do you ever feel like God has abandoned you?

Perhaps in your head you know he hasn’t, but deep down your heart questions his presence. You wonder why God has put you in such troubled and persistently difficult circumstances. You’re lonely, needy, confused.

You want God to provide for you, but it feels like he hasn’t. What’s worse, it feels like he won’t.

When God Provides in Scripture

If that’s how you feel, you’re not alone. Discouragement and loneliness can burrow into even the strongest Christian. Scripture is filled with examples; in fact, you can’t even get past Genesis without seeing them. Since the beginning of humanity, we have wanted God to provide for us—but often not in the way he actually does.

Take just two examples: Hagar and Joseph.

1. God provides for Hagar.

Consider Hagar first, who had fled from her mistress, Sarai. Hagar had lorded her pregnancy over the barren Sarai and was punished with her mistress’ anger and abuse (Genesis 16:1-6). Hagar – desperate, afraid and seemingly unable to cope – ran into the wilderness. It was in this empty and desolate desert that she sat down by a spring of water. And it was here in this wilderness that God provided for her.

The angel of the Lord found her. He asked her why she had fled from Sarai, and then told her that she must return to her mistress and submit. But the Lord also promised her that he had seen and heard her, and that the baby growing inside her womb would be a ruler. Hagar was deeply comforted and called the Lord “a God of seeing,” since she said, “Truly I have seen him who looks after me.”

Fast forward fourteen years later, when Abraham has sent Hagar and her now-teenage son Ishmael away (Genesis 21:14). They are back in the wilderness, and this time Hagar feels even more alone. She’s certain they’re going to die. She has no food, no shelter, and no protection. She sits a bow’s shot away from her son, unwilling to watch him die, and weeps. Once again, God sees and God provides.

Hagar is not alone.

An angel of the Lord finds her and says, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him a great nation” (vv. 17-18). Then he graciously “opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went in and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. And God was with the boy, and he grew up” (vv. 19-20).

God provided. In the middle of bitter, seemingly hopeless circumstances, he saw and he cared. He was there. His provision was surely not what Hagar expected – either time. The first it was returning to an abusive mistress. The second it was living in the wilderness. But in his wisdom, he knew what she needed better than she did.

2. God provides for Joseph.

It was the same story with Joseph. Young, ambitious Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt. Then, in response to his faithful service, he was falsely accused of sexual harassment and imprisoned. And then, in response to his humble interpretation of Pharaoh’s cupbearer’s dream, Joseph was promptly forgotten and left to languish in prison for years. Yet at the end of his sufferings, Joseph could say to his guilty brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

Even if it was unexpected. Even if it looked like abandonment. Joseph was keenly aware of God’s provision. He was keenly aware of God’s presence. Joseph was never alone. It was this that led him to extend that same provision to his brothers: “So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones” (v. 21).

God’s Greatest Provision

God provides for his people. That is the moral of the story, the moral of your story, that lingers behind every circumstance. God doesn’t abandon his people. His provision may not look like what we want, but it is always what is best.

Ultimately, he has provided for our deepest need through Christ. We may have temporary needs now – food, clothing, shelter, health – but our greatest need is an eternal one: salvation. And God, in his supreme and astounding mercy, provided that for us in his son, Jesus Christ. We never deserved it. But we did need it. And our Heavenly Father provided it. There is nothing more we eternally need.

Jesus entered into our needy humanity, stepped into our suffering. We may feel like he abandons us, but there is nothing further from the truth. We are never alone.

Content with God’s Provision

And God continues to provide for us day by day—just like he did for Hagar and Joseph and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and Joshua and Job and Rahab and Ruth and Esther and Ezra and Ezekiel and Habakkuk and Mary and Peter and Paul and Lydia and Tabitha and Philemon and the Ethiopian eunuch and every one of his children. So our responsibility is to be content with what he provides. We don’t doubt, don’t disbelieve, aren’t discouraged, but are grateful.

Of course, this is not easy. We struggle to be content. Even the apostle Paul said he was learning to be content. It is a process – often a painful one. Yet despite that, Scripture presents this inescapable truth: “God always provides.” Therefore, we have no reason to be discontent.

We may feel bitter, lonely, or abandoned, but the truth is that our God cares for us. He is unfailingly sovereign, unceasingly loving, and unstoppably good. And he is always with us. His presence doesn’t flicker or fade. Learn to trust him, for he will never abandon you. He is your Heavenly Father, and he will give you what you need.

That may not be a new car. That may not be comfort. That may not be a home or health or a spouse. It may not even be your life. But it is what you need. It is what is best—for your good, for your eternal joy, and for God’s glory.

Jaquelle Crowe

Jaquelle Crowe is a writer from eastern Canada. She is a graduate of Thomas Edison State University and the editor-in-chief of She is the author of This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years (Crossway, April 2017). You can find more of her writing at and follow her on Twitter.
Jaquelle Crowe is a writer from eastern Canada. She is a graduate of Thomas Edison State University and the editor-in-chief of She is the author of This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years (Crossway, April 2017). You can find more of her writing at and follow her on Twitter.