By Bonnie Sala
Guidelines For Living
Do you ever say, “Thank you, God!” for what could have happened to you but did not? The human tendency is to say, “Thank you!” for the wonderful things that happen like when you get a raise at work, or when someone gives you a well-deserved compliment, or your child’s team wins; but what about giving thanks for what could have happened, but did not?
Driving along the beautiful Aegean Sea from Athens toward the ancient city of Corinth some 40 miles away, you see numerous shrines alongside the highway, and you might immediately think that someone was killed there, and family or friends built a tiny shrine to their memory. But that is not the situation at all. True, the highway is narrow and winding as it snakes its way on the edge of the mountains beside the beautiful water which is part of the Mediterranean. True, there have been frequent accidents taking the lives of those who drove carelessly or ventured too close to the edge of the highway. But some of these shrines, filled with candles and religious artifacts, have been built to offer thanks to God for those who were involved in accidents but were not killed.
It is their way of saying, “Thank you, God, for what did not happen.” How about it? Have you ever said, “God, I want to thank you for what could have happened but did not?” “Thank you that when I came down with stomach pains the doctors were quickly able to diagnose and correct the problem.” “Thank you, that I am able to fill my lungs with fresh, clean air and that my mind is sound and my body is healthy.” It is an interesting thought—that we can say, “Thank you, God,” for those things that in His wise providence He keeps from happening, that could well have happened.
Like the man and woman who sat in church as a memorial gift was presented to the congregation in memory of a young man in the military who had given his life in the service of his country. As the presentation was completed, the woman wiped tears from her eyes and nudged her husband. “Let’s do the same thing for our son,” she whispered.
“Why?” countered the man, “Nothing’s the matter with our son–he is still alive!”
“That is just it,” responded the woman. “We ought to be even more thankful, because he is alive and well!”
Gratitude has become a lost art in the lives of many people. We are so busy putting in our orders as to what we want from heaven, that we have forgotten how to say, “God, thank you for what you have done,” and part of gratitude is saying, “God, thank you for what you, in your wise providence, have kept from happening.”
There is only one way that you can really learn gratitude for what does not happen, and that is by relinquishing the control of your future to His will and accepting the fact that He really knows best. The Apostle Paul taught us by his life that we may make our plans but God directs our steps, and when He points us in a different direction, we must just as joyfully say, “Thank you, God, for what did not happen,” as we say, “thank you,” for what did happen.
When Paul wrote in the Bible book of Thessalonians he encouraged, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Stop today and think for a moment. Could you make a list of events that certainly could have happened, but gratefully, did not?
Are you able to see in your own life, as Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps?” Yes, let’s thank God for directing our steps in His perfect will, thanking Him for all—what happened, and what didn’t!