“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.” – Psalm 68:19
“Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” – Matthew 11:4-6
“All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:27-28
So God said, “No.” I prayed for something specific in the last year – not earth-shattering or life-altering, but a specific thing that I wanted, that seemed to be a natural progression in God’s plan (or my fuzzy, self-focused understanding of it) and that I thought would be good for all involved. Granted, it was a bold request, but certainly not beyond God. And though the answer didn’t come in an audible, James Earl Jones kind of voice, it was a resounding and crystal clear “No”, or at the very least, a firm “Not now.”
Frankly, I pouted for a few days. I enjoy having my way as much as anyone else. I think all my ideas are great ideas, and the disappointment of God not agreeing dragged me down. But then, God brought to mind a few of the amazing, unexpected, and even amusing things He has done for me over the years, and my faith in HIS great ideas was renewed.
In Matthew 11, John the Baptist seems to be struggling with a “No.” Trapped behind prison walls, John is hurting while others are being healed, and now, he’s starting to question his own ideas about Jesus (Verses 2-3). He sends two of his followers to deliver a pointed question that demands an answer.
With the perfect blend of grace and truth, Jesus responds by pointing to the blessings (Verses 4-5). He doesn’t demean the desires of John or minimize his pain, but He reminds him of the mission, and in so doing, He shows John (and all of us) that God is still working and active and supremely good – even when we get a “No.”
And then, He builds John up (Verses 7-11). It’s easy to drive a doubter into total hopelessness by chiding them for honest questions and a desire to understand, but Jesus longs for the relationship that comes with deep questions and even deeper answers. Jesus rewards John’s desire to understand by validating His purpose and His place in God’s plan – even from behind prison walls. God’s mission was marching on while John was imprisoned, but that didn’t make John’s role or his faithfulness in that role any less important or less valued by God.
Jesus then turns His attention to the doubters who are content to forever live with their doubts – cities that deprived themselves of miracles because they refused to see God right in front of them (Verses 20-24, Matthew 13:57-58, Hebrews 11:6).
Jesus closed the exchange in prayer, and if the miracles didn’t speak volumes, Jesus’ prayer certainly did (Verses 25-26). Without missing a beat, Jesus goes on to explain that only He can unlock the mysteries of God for us – not because all the answers are ours to know, but because we can know Jesus, the perfect incarnation of the character of God and the only way to God (John 1:14, 14:6, Hebrews 1:1-3).
Don’t miss God right in front of you. Your life is loaded with blessings, no matter where you are (Psalm 68:19, Psalm 103:1-5, Psalm 139, Matthew 10:28-30). John was still in prison, but he was still very much on God’s radar and very much loved.
And so it is with you, my friend. Your prison may be a health crisis, a financial setback, a relationship gone bad, or even just the prison of your own anxieties and fears. I am here to plead with you to look beyond those prison walls to see what God is doing. The problem that landed you in this prison may not be fixed, but I have known God long enough to know that He is always at work. You may not be handed the blessing you named and claimed for yourself. In fact, you may have gotten a resounding “No”, but look beyond those walls, and you will see overwhelming evidence of His goodness. You will see blessings that you didn’t even know to ask for, and purpose that’s way better than anything you or I could have planned (Psalm 84:11, Isaiah 64:4, Jeremiah 29:11, Nahum 1:7, Hebrews 13:20-21).
Let go of your ideas, and get a hold of His goodness. He is faithful – even behind prison walls.
Ask God to show you the blessings in your life. Start praising Him from behind your prison walls, and you will see His goodness everywhere.