“We bristle against the boundaries our Sovereign God sets for us.”

It was a typical morning at the park with my two-year-old daughter and her little buddy who always shows up at about the same time every day. Like any toddlers relatively new to life and social norms, they have been working out the kinks in their growing friendship. Hitting is not okay. Sharing is good. Hugs are sweet. Say please and thank you. At one point in the morning, Kayla’s buddy blurted out a quick and stern “No!” when her mom asked her to share some fruit, to which her mom responded, “We never say no. No is not a nice word.” While I understood this mother’s intent in the moment to encourage sharing, something in my gut did not sit quite right with the phrasing of her instruction. 

I didn’t think much more of it until my dinnertime battles with my children about whether or not they could eat ice cream before broccoli, cookies before cheese. “No.” I felt (and heard!) all their displeasure, and then I felt a twinge of guilt. Though I held my ground, there remained that inner pestering voice telling me I was a bad mom because my children were unhappy with me - the inner voice that sometimes believes the lie that it is unloving to draw boundaries with a firm “no”. 

What is behind this conditioning in favor of yes always, and never no? God set boundaries for Himself from the beginning, and Satan came in with his lies to convince Adam and Eve that God could not be trusted with His loving “no”. Satan questioned the surety of God’s word and the goodness of His boundaries. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” (Gen. 3:1) Our forefathers decided they wouldn’t trust God, and so they decided they wouldn’t respect His boundaries either. They insisted on more of yes, less of no, sadly to their demise.

Are we not just like little children with their parents, like Adam and Eve with God? We bristle against the boundaries our Sovereign God sets for us. We start to believe that serpent’s whisper and we wonder how we can find our way to the thing we feel He is withholding. When we hear His “no,” be it in the form of not understanding all He is doing in the world, or disappointment in not having something our hearts deeply long for, we may balk at the fact that He would allow us to struggle with negative feelings towards Him. But then I remember the God-given instinct that makes me hold fast in my “no” with my daughters. I want my girls to trust what I say to them is for their good, and I want them to respect those boundaries out of trust. I don’t want to waver between a firm “no” and a defeated “yes” for the sake of short-term peace, but at the cost of their long-term well-being.

This is not at all to oversimplify or make light of loss, grief, disappointment or confusion. Sometimes God’s “no” hurts. These struggles are real, and He is so incredibly compassionate and kind. He is the God who weeps with us. And still, even in His kindness, He may nevertheless hold fast to His boundaries, His “no.”  At times, this can be hard for me. My flesh doesn’t want to struggle with God. My flesh just wants to feel good towards Him and about Him. But ultimately, I wouldn’t be able to trust Him as a Good Father if He left me without boundaries, if He didn’t hold His ground as the One who knows what is best. I would miss the road to intimacy, holiness and righteousness.

“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

‘My son do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the ones he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” 

-Hebrews 12:5-11

Alina Sato

Alina is a member of Cornerstone and serves the church as a servant minister.

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