How do you know when God says "No"?

I need to ask this question because I am so upset and I am sure it is showing to my co-workers right now. How do you know when God says “No” to your prayer? I have been praying and praying, going to Mass, receiving his precious body and blood, doing novenas, the list goes on and on. I can honestly say that all has been in and through love and with trust. My youngest daughter and her husband have been trying for years to conceive a child and her heart is broken. She has been praying as well, going to Mass, crying and even screaming at God for an answer … either yes or no! I am watching my child come apart with stress.

Sorry for going on and on, but I really need to know this now: Should I just accept that the answer is “no” or “not now”? I know “his will be done.” I understand this but when is it time to accept and just try to adjust that it is his final answer? This is really affecting our health and I know that the Lord does not will that for us. He knows our hearts and must know fully how much we love him, but we are only imperfect humans trying their best. Please help us. Where do we go?

I completely sympathize with your agony. I think many people have intentions for which they have prayed ardently for a long, long time, seemingly without answer. But, as I’m sure you know, allowing oneself to become emotionally unraveled over unanswered prayers is not the answer. So, what do you do?

For me, the answer has been to try to live in the present moment and not worry about whether or not God will eventually grant me my heart’s desire. I continue to pray, I continue to pester any saint who will listen to plead for the intentions for which I am seeking a particular result; but then I try to go on living life day to day, fulfilling my obligations as a Christian and trying to be always ready should God suddenly say “Yes.”

What this has taught me is that God can use this time to prepare us for a future answer, should we be faithful to him and to the Church in the present moment. St. Jane Frances de Chantal, for example, longed to be a nun but for many years it seemed that her obligations to her family would permanently thwart her desire. Eventually she did become a nun, and as it turned out, the charism of the religious order she founded drew upon her many years of experience as a laywoman living in the world.

Assuming your daughter has exhausted the licit medical interventions possible for healing her fertility, she can do nothing more than she has done so far to become pregnant. But, in addition to praying for a child, she can look into foster parenting or adoption; she can volunteer for a daycare center; she might even be able to volunteer as a “baby rocker” at a local hospital’s maternity ward. In these ways she can both exercise spiritual motherhood and be ready for her own child should God ever say “Yes.”

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