It was the tradition in my home growing up that a prayer be given before every meal. My father offered the same blessing every evening for (I suppose) the thousands of meals my mom prepared. It went like this: “Oh Lord we thank you for this day, for this food. Forgive us of our sins and watch over us throughout the night. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.” I can close my eyes and still hear his voice decades following his passing as if he was still sitting at the table about to partake of my mom’s delicious fried chicken. I never forgot his nightly prayer. I suppose knowing how good the meal was going to taste made thanking God that much easier and although my dads prayer was simple, routine and somewhat stale, it taught me the importance of raising a Christian family that paused each evening at the table to thank our Lord for what we had.
We should always thank God for His providence, knowing it is by His good will and pleasure that we have the things we have. The scripture declares that God sends both the cloud and the rainbow. And though thanking God for the hardships of our lives may be difficult, thanking our sovereign God for the good things in our lives is so easy it seems like an almost natural, innate response. How many times have we said or heard said, “Thank God!” when something good happens? The most unbelieving of our society can find reason to say “Thank God!” when things go their way and just as easily curse Him or declare Him non-existent when things do not. I too am guilty of that behavior at times.
Today I considered all of these intricacies of prayer as Lisa went for her six month mammogram check-up following her bout with breast cancer two years ago. The horror of hearing the words “breast cancer” was something neither of us wanted to endure again and it was with great joy and relief that we recieved the news that test results determined she remains cancer free. Thank God!
There have been many life lessons learned through Lisa’s breast cancer experience. We appreciate life a little more, we love our family and friends a little more intimately, we say, “I love you!” more often. But another powerful learning has been to thank God for the things we don’t have. To wake up in the morning cancer free is God’s gift to us and should be celebrated and prayed over and talked about and posted on Facebook and billboards. God has done a great thing by not allowing into our lives those things that destroy us.
At that first Christmas long ago, some probably questioned why God did not provide better accomodations for the Son of Man to be born. I probably would have been one of those. I’m ashamed to admit that too often my evaluations of God’s blessings has more to do with my personal comforts and material possessions than the fact that He has prevented horrors from attacking my life that I hear about for so many. With that in mind, I consider that first Christmas and then find myself wanting to thank God for the child – not complain about the conditions, for the joy of God becoming flesh – not bitch about a dirty, smelly animal stall. On that first Christmas it became necessary to look way beyond an unsanitary stable and that which was lacking and thank God for the very things we did not have – namely, a world without grace, a life without hope, and someday – a wife having to hear again the word, “cancer”. We should remember to thank God for not only the things He provides, but, also what He takes away.
I’ve never been one to set New Years resolutions but I may consider this next year resolving to be more aware and more thankful for the things I don’t have rather than all the things I do. Our God is a God who provides, but He is also a God who prevents – and that may be His greatest gift of all.
So let me get the approaching new year started by saying, “Thank you God for the things I don’t have!”