A listener named Lisa asks how to know if God’s answer to a prayer is no. She shares that she has been trying to buy a new house for a year, but things keep falling through. She wonders if circumstances can tell us God’s will.
Father Dave responds, “We are tempted to equate roadblocks with a negative response from God. There is not a cause and effect. Look at Job in the Old Testament — the whole point of that scenario was for God to illustrate to us that things going wrong in our lives have nothing to do with God sending us a message… Sometimes, God does communicate with us through circumstances, but because it is not 100% of the time, I cannot say that just because a lot of stumbling blocks came in your way in terms of purchasing a house, that God is telling you not to do that. It comes down to your own relationship with God and your own discernment.”
“There is a discernment process that is more than just looking for a sign… Sometimes, there are things that we interpret as signs that help us to move along in a certain direction. There are also things that we can interpret as God pushing us away into a different direction. Yes, they may be God or they may genuinely be things that are going wrong. We have many examples in Scripture where God asks us to be persistent even when we get the door slammed in our face again and again.”
“The situation that you described doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a yes or a no… In my own experience of discernment, sometimes there are closed doors or roadblocks that have pushed me in a certain direction. And I have gone with that and can look back and not regret it . Unfortunately, it is sometimes easier to see God’s direction or the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the rearview mirror. It is much more difficult to see clearly and have a firm answer when you’re standing in the moment… This is an opportunity for continued prayer and discernment for you… Try to explicitly ask God what his will is. Always presume that God wants to be with you whether this works out or not.”