As a lot of you know, this has been a tough summer for me. My life has not unfolded as nicely and neatly as I imagined it would. One of the biggest points of frustration has been looking for a job–it’s been far more difficult and humbling than I ever imagined it being.
Amidst my discouragement, I was telling someone the other day about the journey I have taken this summer, and at the end of the conversation he offered to pray for me. During the prayer, he said something that startled me. He thanked God for not providing me with a job.
Ironically, I wasn’t startled by the obvious weirdness of his prayer. It didn’t make me mad that he essentially undermined the very prayer I had been praying all summer. Instead, I was more startled by how eerily similar his prayer sounded to the Scripture I had read earlier that morning. I had just been reading 1 Thessalonians 5:18 which instructs us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” After reading this verse, I had spent some time meditating on its implications because “all circumstances” means that we must give thanks for the good things AND the bad things that happens. That is indeed a hard teaching.
Fortunately, my friend’s prayer later that day shed some light on the verse. In the past, when I read 1 Thessalonias 5:18 I assumed we are to give thanks “in all circumstances” because it is in our hardships that God grows and refines us. Both of those are good works for which we should be grateful.
However, there is more to the picture than that. When I ask God for something, and He does not provide, it’s not always because He is disciplining me. At times He may be protecting me, or even allowing me a wonderful experience that I would have missed had I received what I asked for.
All of that to say, I needed to be thankful that God had yet to provide me with a job, not simply because He’s used this as a time to prune me, but because He is saving something better for me. I needed to be thankful that I didn’t have a job yet, because it meant that my desires were far too small, and God was doing more than I could possibly imagine.
So I challenge you–whatever it is that you’ve been asking God for, whether it is a job, a spouse, or some other opportunity, thank God that He has withheld it. But don’t thank Him simply because that is the Christian thing to do, and we are supposed to rejoice in harship and refinement regardless of whether or not we feel like it. Thank Him because He is protecting you, as well as granting you extra blessings in the mean time. Thank Him because the life He has granted you at this moment is, in reality, the very best life you can have. Your present circumstances are, in fact, the greatest blessing He can give you. God is an extremely intentional God, so His timing is precise and perfect. If He hasn’t provided yet, it’s for a reason that is far greater than we can ever conceive, and for that we should be grateful.
And by the way, the day after reading that Scripture and praying with my friend, I got a job. 🙂