During this time of year, many of us are encouraged to adopt an attitude of gratitude. We do not have to look very far to find some sort of challenge that asks us to list, write, post, or take a picture of the things for which we are grateful. And this is a good thing. The Bible tells us to,
“Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” -1 Thessalonians 5:18
I have taken these challenges myself and tried to get my family to participate as well. Usually, we start off pretty strong and then we get lazy, repetitive or just disinterested. So I wanted to think of a new, fresh and different way to be thankful.
What if I started a list of things I was thankful for that God HAD NOT given to me?
Does that make sense? I’m not sure if it did to me at first either, but I have been pondering this idea for about two weeks now and God keeps bringing things to my mind. I wondered…would those be considered gifts too? Those things I wanted, asked for, begged and pleaded for but never got? Could I thank God for not giving me things?
In Ephesians 5:20 it says to “give thanks always and for everything…” so I reasoned that this is what God wanted me to do. It has been hard and has brought up some past hurts, current struggles and future anxieties about the things He may not give me, but here is my partial (and hopefully ongoing) list.
God DID NOT GIVE me:
~ parents who gave me everything and let me do whatever I wanted
~ more brothers & sisters
~ popularity & acceptance in all my social circles
~ a Christian support group in my public high school
~ the first teaching job I interviewed for & desperately wanted
~ friends who always support & never hurt or betray me
~ a husband who always agrees with me & does things my way
~ a strong & healthy physical body
~ children who always listen & obey
~ peaceful & uninterrupted sleep every night
~ a life without insecurity, anxiety & doubt
~ success in all my endeavors
No, He not given me those things and many more things I have wanted over the years. So how can I still be thankful? Because He has also not given me what I deserve! I deserve punishment for my pride, selfishness, greed, and jealousy (and many other sins I commit daily!). But God, through Jesus Christ, in His love, mercy, and compassion, has given me unmerited grace. Something I cannot achieve nor earn on my own and something I desperately need.
As I reflect on that list, I realize now that in not giving me the things I wanted and still may want, God still provided and continues to provide the things I need. He works ALL things (even the bad, ugly and sad) together for my good and His glory and that is why I can truly thank Him for it all.
How about you? What has God not given you that you can thank Him for today?
About Carla Gasser
When not teaching, writing or speaking, I am most myself as a wife and mom living in Hudson, Ohio with my four very active children (ages 18, 16, 14, & 10). I married, Michael, my childhood friend, and high school sweetheart, over 24 years ago and feel very fortunate to have such a loving, generous and level-headed partner and best friend. I also enjoy serving in the women’s ministry at my church, mentoring young women, and volunteering in the local public schools my children attend. I continue to teach Bible studies and have a passion for local outreach. You can learn more about my life and ministry by visiting AT THE CROSSROADS: www.carlagasser.com
I really enjoyed your blog post. I liked your perspective on looking at being grateful in other ways. Something I did today that kind of touches on this topic, is that as I was waiting in line at a grocery store, I saw a mom and her child outside in the parking lot with a sign asking for money and food. At first, like most people, I found myself judging her a little bit because everyone is struggling financially and don’t really have the means to give away. I was contemplating ignoring her or talking to her and listening to her store. God was pushing me to talk to her and I did. I asked her what happened in her life that put her in a position to ask others for things. She informed me she lost her job and her and her husband and 2 children were struggling financially and with buying food. They didn’t have healthcare and were lucky to have a place to stay. I told her I couldn’t give her money, but I would find her a number to a church that had opportunity for work. Then we got on the topic of a car seat. She had been driving around without a car seat for her year and a half old son. Very dangerous! So God recently blessing me with a second job at a second hand clothing store who also donates things we can’t accept, I was able to buy her a hamy down car seat and my new boss donated her a stroller. She was over joyed and thankful.
The main point of me telling this story is that when we have so many things to be thankful for and that God has blessed us in so many ways, we need to give back and bless others. This is where what we didn’t get from God comes in. Sometimes when we want to be selfish and o something for ourselves, yet we see someone struggling and don’t help them, sometimes things won’t work out and we don’t get what we want. Or if we get so caught up in our own personal lives and we forget to think of others. God has a way of opening our eyes nd pushes us to minister and touch others lives by doing things and being an example. God saying no not right now or this isn’t what I want for you, opens our eyes to see what he does want.
Be blessed and thank you for sharing. I hope thi all made sense.
Carla, I can definitely look back over my life with gratefulness for the things I thought I wanted or deserved but God saw fit to withhold from me.