Why God Says No
Volume 14 Issue 9
THE FIRST REAL AWARENESS, for most of us, of the tremendous potential continuing assistance from a Higher Power came when we realized that something beyond ourselves was removing the baffling compulsion to drink. As practical results developed, we began to respect the practical side of a spiritual life. Later we learned that God’s help is not limited to our drinking problem alone, but extends into all phases of our lives.
And right there a lot of us begin to get into a certain kind of trouble.
Somehow, since we got an immediate answer for our drinking, we conclude that similar answers should come immediately–for anything else that might be disturbing us at the moment. We learn that with God all things are possible, and therefore why should we have to be disturbed or disappointed at all?
So we offer up prayers for assistance, and our requirements may be as lengthy as a child’s list to Santa Claus. But God doesn’t meet our demands, so we become a little miffed. And our agitation is likely to increase when we see others getting many of the advantages we’d like to have. Worse yet, we see people who aren’t on a “spiritual basis” at all enjoying an outpouring of luck in all directions. . .a state of affairs that can lead us into blind alleys of self-pity and envy, feeling that God has cheated us.
After all, we say to ourselves (and to the Higher Power who seems to be denying us), aren’t we trying to lead good lives? We’re doing our best to be moral, kind, courteous, helpful, and honest. Shouldn’t good things come our way, even material things? (We conveniently avoid the admission that we are trying to lead good lives only because alcohol had us trapped, backed into a corner, with no alternative except to reach out desperately for AA.) We may also have been misled by some of the current books on positive thinking, many of which contain glowing accounts of how countless perplexing problems were solved simply through spending a few minutes each day in prayer and meditation.
But first, shouldn’t we consider the real meaning of Steps Three and Eleven in the AA program? In these Steps, we commit ourselves to God’s will–whatever it is and regardless of the consequences. Our own plans may seem worthy, and our own immediate desires may be modest, but even these may somehow conflict with the plans God has for us. It may be that in His strategy, the ultimate victory hinges on losing, not winning, some of the battles along the way. Today’s disappointment, viewed six months hence, may turn out to be one of the best breaks we ever got. And at the proper time, our own grateful hindsight will let us see the workings of God’s unerring foresight.
AA’s early history carries some good object lessons revealing how this principle works. At one time Bill W. and several other AA pioneers decided to solicit wealthy people for contributions to the struggling movement. When they weren’t able to raise a single dime, they must have wondered if God hadn’t forgotten the desperate needs of the embryo society. Yet, as it later turned out, this experience helped teach AA to be self-supporting. It certainly must have been one of His mysterious ways of performing wonders.
Or, take the example of Bill’s business reverses in Akron, just before he met Dr. Bob. Why should God let a man sustain a defeat like that, especially a man who had known many successive defeats and was doing his level best to live a new kind of a life? No considerate person in his right mind would permit a man to get in a situation like that. But God permitted it, and in groping for a way out of the mess, Bill fell back on his spiritual resources and the soul-restoring technique of helping others. Today we beneficiaries of AA’s redemptive power can see that this supposed adversity was really God’s heavy hand molding a magnificent movement into being.
But let’s suppose, just for illustration, that God did give us immediate answers completely in accordance with our wishes, a blank check to do and have anything we want. How well would any of us come out on a deal like that? Since selfishness is a primary defect of alcoholics, and most of us are experts in using people and circumstances to feather our own nests, wouldn’t we do the same thing to Him? We would bombard Him with unlimited demands, ranging from material gains to dictatorial control over the lives of others.
Since we’re an impatient breed, we’d use His help to run everyone else off the road, although we’d smugly rationalize it by saying we were merely receiving what was due us. We would gloat over business successes, romantic conquests, prestige, and other “breaks”–giving little thought to the unpleasant suggestion that our gains might be defeats for somebody else. Yes, we would manipulate God as spoiled children make demands on foolish and indulgent parents.
But God is neither foolish nor indulgent, and has the wisdom to say NO. And his answers are always for our own highest good. None of this is to say that God’s answers must always be “no”. . .for all of us have known numerous times when the answer was an immediate “yes.” But these requests were gratified because they were right, and were undoubtedly made in a spirit of humility and unselfishness.
Some AAs seem to achieve beautiful harmony almost immediately when they expose themselves to God’s will. They develop such profound spiritual insight that they receive answers to almost all their prayers. The rest of us admire their serenity and wisdom, but continue trying to inveigle God into doing things our way. Then we start getting the true realization, perhaps, when we too examine the course of our lives and discover God’s unerring wisdom in times past, when He has had to listen and shake His head.