This article was originally written for Core Christianity.
Perhaps the harshest word we ever hear growing up is also one of the shortest: “No.” “No” is a small word that packs an enormous amount of power. It has the ability to both prevent and protect. Growing up, we almost singularly see the prevention side of this command, seeing “no” as merely a barrier hemming us in. But, in fact, “no” is more like a gateway to better living. “No, do not touch that electrical outlet.” “No, do not touch that hot stove.” “No, do not play in the middle of the street,” etc. Youthful ignorance and curiosity sometimes doesn’t see the protection, only the prevention in those words.
We often do the same with God. When the Heavenly Father says no to us, we often react like a toddler throwing a tantrum. What’s your reaction when God says no? What happens when God closes a door and denies your seemingly good intentions? Do you still see the protection and preservation of his hand in that moment? Or do you see it as another instance of him preventing you from enjoying life and fulfilling a dream? At the end of King David’s life, he expresses a desire to build a house for the Lord. “Look, I am living in a cedar house while the ark of God sits inside tent curtains.” (2 Sam 7:2; 1 Chr 17:1) A passion arises in David to construct a temple for Jehovah — not for his own renown but for the worship, honor, and glory of the almighty God that had sustained him throughout his life. It’s a good desire and the prophet Nathan even confirms his aspirations, saying, “Go and do all that is on your mind, for the Lord is with you.” (2 Sam 7:3; 1 Chr 17:2) God’s will is seemingly clear: David would erect a house for the Lord in which generation after generation could extol the God that had delivered them and is now preserving them.
It’s natural for us to conclude that such an impulse would not only be recognized by God but would be commended and allowed to be carried out. But the Lord’s plans were different for David. God denied him. God said no. “This is what the Lord says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in.” (1 Chr 17:4) The good intention in David’s heart wasn’t to be. It wasn’t God’s will for David to build the temple, rather, only to prepare the way for the temple. We see this at the beginning of 1 Chronicles 22, where David begins stockpiling materials and resources for the promised construction of God’s house — the house he would never get to see. (1 Chr 22:2–5) He then commissions his son Solomon to “begin the work” (1 Chr 22:16), for he was the one that should see the glory of the Lord’s house. The blueprint was there. The plans were made. The materials were collected. But the building wouldn’t be realized in David’s day. This must’ve been perplexing for David. The man after God’s own heart would never get to walk in God’s house.
But where David desired the good thing of constructing the Lord’s temple, God had a better plan. As is always the case, his ways aren’t our ways, nor his plans our plans. God promises to David that he would raise up his offspring, Solomon, who would usher in a reign of peace and prosperity in God’s kingdom. “When your time comes to be with your fathers, I will raise up after you your descendant, who is one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever.” (1 Chr 17:11–12)
I can’t help but think that these words aren’t only intended to foreshadow what God would do through Solomon, but also what he’d do through his Son. He wasn’t only going to raise up David’s son, he was going to bring a Savior, the one who would bring true, lasting peace and rest for the nations. The promised Messiah would come from David’s line. (2 Sam 7:12) The true and better Son of David would come and establish God’s Kingdom. David might’ve wanted to build God a house, but God’s plan was better: he was going to build David a house. “Furthermore, I declare to you that the Lord himself will build a house for you.” (1 Chr 17:10) God makes a covenant with David, something much better than any construction project David could’ve pulled off. And, so, David passes away, denied a good thing, but promised a better one. God had closed a door but had opened another.
It’s tough hearing God’s “no,” especially when it doesn’t sound like protection, only prevention. During these times, it seems as though God takes our hearts, puts them on his anvil, and hammers us in a myriad of unexpected ways. This leads to all manner of questions and doubts. Why, God, are You denying this passion in me? Why are You preventing me? But it’s then that the Spirit brings the truth of the Word to our minds. The truth that you don’t have be somebody to do something for God. He doesn’t need you to lead a movement or start a reformation or be the next gospel crusader. God doesn’t need that. His call for your life is far simpler than that. He just wants you to be faithful, where you are, with what you’re doing right now. God closes the door, sometimes, because he knows we need a few more seasons meekness and humbleness under our belts.
Because, you see when God closes a door, he doesn’t always open a window. Sometimes he just wants you to be content in the room you’re in.
How do you persist in seasons like this? Pray to be content in the room of quiet faithfulness. Pray to be okay with not knowing what next year, next month, or even next week holds. Pray that he’d give you a greater concern for the here and now. Pray to be okay with God’s denial, knowing that his deliverance of you is secure forever by the merits of his Son. He might’ve said “no” to you in this, but for everything else, his “yes” is Christ. And that’s all you really need. God doesn’t always open a window after he closes the door. But even still, you can praise him in the hallway.