In this season of Thanksgiving, we often thank God for all His many blessings in the form of human relationships, prosperity, property, and other opportunities. It’s not hard to see the people and the things that God has blessed us with. When God answers our prayers the way we hope, we easily rejoice. Praise flows much easier.
But, what about the times when God seems to say “no” to us when relationships don’t work out, when jobs are lost, or when we lose a family member? It’s much harder to praise God. However, in our loss, we can see that God’s blessings are still there if we realize that God still hears our prayers and He is still in control.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
When I was still single, I tried to ask several women to go on a date with me. Most of them said “no”. If there was a relationship, it didn’t work out. God said “no” many times.
I worked for one telephone/media company for 23 years before joining the ACC staff. I was laid off twice during that time. The first time was in 1999 when they reduced our department from 14 to 7 employees. The other time was in 2015 when our department had to reduce staff because people no longer use telephone books/yellow pages. God said “no” twice.
My mom died in Feb., 2018. On Thanksgiving weekend of 2017, she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that had already spread to her brain. My mom declined to have surgery or treatment. The doctors gave her 3 months to live. She died almost 3 months later. God said “no”.
Throughout these many disappointments in life, it was easy to feel sad and “drown in my sorrows”. But, over time, I learned that some mysteries of God can only be understood when He rejects certain things that our hearts desire because He has something better. God says “no” because He is saying “yes” to something better.
When I see my wonderful wife, Ming, and how unique she is to me, I am very thankful. Both of us grew up in Spain and our families know each other. Not just our parents, but our aunts and uncles know each other. I can count very few people in this world that share the similar life experiences that my wife and I share, even before we met. While we are not compatible in everything, God answered my prayers for an extended family that gets along well. We both enjoy trying food from all over the world. We enjoy travelling and have many similarities. She is the opposite of me in many ways that compliment my personality and temperament.
All of this would not have been possible if the women I met in the past had said “yes” to me or I held on to relationships that were not what God had intended for my life. It was hard to be rejected and to struggle in singleness well into my mid-30s. But, I look back now and I am very thankful for the family that I have.
When I got laid off in 1999, I had only worked for 3 years after college. My future was still uncertain and my job skills were not very career-specific with a Communication/Advertising degree. I was happy with my first job, but what would I do after my layoff? It turns out, I was able to find a new job in the same company in a different building and department.
The new job required me to 1) train people, 2) write training manuals and 3) understand the software in the new department. I had no prior experience in any of those 3 areas. There were much more qualified candidates for the new job. I didn’t have any social network with the company to have someone help me get this new job. Also, I got a raise and the new work building was closer to my home and the church where I was also serving at the time. The new job turned out to be a huge improvement in every way as I learned new skills that I still use today as a children’s pastor. Praise God!
When I got laid off in 2015, I was able to find another job in the same company. While my salary was significantly reduced, I was able to learn the internet business and how to manage websites. I am now able to update the Children’s Ministry pages on ACC’s website. God said “no” in my career many other times, but He always has a greater plan in mind.
My family and I were very sad when my mother passed away in 2018. My mom never complained in her final 3 months and was very grateful for her full life. She was happy for me and my siblings because we are all married and have children. She kept praising my dad for being such a great helper when she was in hospice. God kept us together as we continued to trust Him. He reminded me that my mother accepted Christ almost a year before she passed away. That reminder gave me tremendous peace and I realized that she would be in a much better place with no more suffering after she passed away.
In the 1990s, there was a popular Country song called “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks. The chorus goes like this:
Sometimes I thank God
For unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’
To the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer
Doesn’t mean he don’t care
‘Cause some of God’s greatest gifts
Are unanswered prayers
The song lyrics aren’t completely accurate. God always answers prayers, but He doesn’t always say “Yes”. A lot of times He says “No”. But, the heart of the song is that God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want Him to. Although we may be disappointed in God’s answer to our prayers at first, I hope we can all eventually see that God has a better plan and purpose for us even if our prayers are often short-sighted. We must be patient to allow God to work in our lives.
Romans 8:28 (ESV)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Praise God during the Thanksgiving holiday for all His many blessings, including the times He says “no” to us.
Here’s a great article about teaching our children to have gratitude:
10 Ways to Build Gratitude Into Our Children’s Hearts
Happy Thanksgiving to all and please stay safe! Have a blessed holiday.