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Thanks for not giving

Thanksgiving is a time when we pause to give special thanks to God for the many ways in which he has blessed us. We have many blessings: a Savior, our family, our health, our jobs. It’s easy to thank God for those blessings because they are so obvious and so numerous.

But do we stop to thank God for what he hasn’t given us?

Years ago, a country song captured that thought in a touching and interesting way. The song told the story about a man who went with his wife to a hometown football game. There he ran into his old high school flame. He remembered how he had prayed fervently that God would make her his wife and then promised that if God did he would never ask for anything again. At the football game, the man talked awkwardly with his old girlfriend about the past. Then he looked at his wife and realized what a blessing she had been in his life. The song continued with him saying, “Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.”

The prayer may not have been answered the way this man desired at that time, but God was working to bless him in ways that he could not foresee, ways that would prove to be much more beneficial to him in the long run.

If you are a parent, you know that sometimes answering your children’s requests means saying no. You say no precisely because you love them and want what’s best for them. When I was in eighth grade, I still remember asking my father if I could go to the public high school instead of our nearby Lutheran prep school. I wanted to go where all my close friends would be. My father’s answer? “No.” No apologies, no long explanations, no soft words to cushion my feelings—just no. I didn’t realize it at the time, but his answer came from his love for me and for his desire to do what was best for me. I certainly know that now.

All of us can look back on things that we have asked God to give us only to realize later that God knew better when he did not give them to us. You might have eagerly set your sights on a new job, but someone else was hired. Two months later, the company you wanted to work for declared bankruptcy. You might have prayed that God would grant you a speedy recovery from a serious disease, but as that struggle dragged on you realized that God was helping you gain perseverance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3,4). You might have made an offer on a new home but lost out in the bidding war, only to understand later that the new home would have been unaffordable on your budget. I’m sure you can think of examples like these in your own life, times when God gave you greater blessings by not giving you what you wanted.

So, this year, if it is your tradition on Thanksgiving Day to go around the family table giving examples of the many ways that God has blessed you, don’t forget to thank God for all the things that, in his love and wisdom, he decided not to give you.

Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 109, Number 11
Issue: November 2022

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This entry is part 9 of 52 in the series presidents message

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