Currently, our church is going through a sermon series about why thankfulness is so important titled “Thankless” which got me to thinking about the unusual things I am actually thankful for at this point in my life. The things for which I have been thankfully disappointed. It’s easy to see the big occurrences of your life and be thankful that the Lord arranged those moments and I’ve spoken before about how I am so grateful for the little things that the Lord provides us including colors, pets, stars and raccoon bums but I’m not sure I’ve ever stopped and truly thanked the Lord for the disappointments of my life. You know the moments I’m talking about…”unanswered prayers” in Garth Brooks words, though I know prayers are always answered, if not necessarily the way I want.
I mean, do you ever look back on some of your big disappointments and breathe a sigh of relief? I know we can all jokingly talk about dodged bullets when it comes to relationships but are we truly thankful for the moments that seemed so devastating at the time? So what am I thankfully disappointed for? When I stopped and truly thought about it, I realized I have a LONG list, many of which ARE dodged bullets, but a lot that aren’t...
I’m thankful that middle school was tough for me. No, I’m not glad people were hateful and to be honest I have very few good memories from that time but I’m so thankful that was part of shaping my life because it is now part of a story I can use to help my students. I recognize the signs of bullying and harassment. I can help the odd kids feel like they belong because I know how desperately they crave that. Overall, I’m a better teacher and mentor because I know the dark side and how well kids can hide what they are going through.
I’m thankful that the Lord says no. If God had answered all of my prayers with a yes I would have been married in my early twenties and not relegated to the Singles group after college which at the time I considered the worst possible fate not because I didn’t like the people I met but rather because I felt it made a declaration about what I considered to be my failures and shortcomings. I remember BEGGING the Lord to send me a man...any man, in the hopes of being “promoted”. (Let me tell you, asking for ANY man is a disaster waiting to happen because when that man shows up you will want to run away screaming.) I begged for a new bible fellowship option which He eventually did provide but not in my timing. I came to understand His no is not necessarily a permanent thing but rather a strong wait.
Over a decade since first finding myself disappointedly sitting in the Singles group I am so thankful for my time spent there because I met some very interesting people, I grew as a woman and I grew in the Lord. I’m glad that the Lord told me no and wait because there are moments from that period of my life that with hindsight I realize were small steps on my current journey. If I had my way, what a mess I would be in now!
I’m thankful the Lord gives AND takes away. If you’ve heard much of my story then you know I did not want to be a teacher. Like, I did everything humanly possible to not become a teacher including getting a degree in Marketing and Public Relations. My mother was a teacher and I knew the insanity they dealt with and wanted none of that! (Ironically, I always enjoyed playing school when I was little. Should have been a sign!) When I graduated college we were in a terrible economic climate which made marketing jobs scarce and those few available options required ten years experience and a kidney for an entry level position. I spent a good six months filling out EVERY application I could possible qualify for within a sixty mile radius while hysterically crying. I was an AP, honor student who always did her absolute best and reaped the rewards of her hard work so the fact that that had little to no bearing on getting a job boggled my mind. I prayed and begged with the Lord to provide something because I was at my wits end and in desperate need of money. The “career” jobs wouldn’t hire me because I didn’t have enough experience and I couldn’t even get a job at the mall because I was told I was overqualified and they didn’t want to pay a college grad.
I finally reached the point of no return when I had major bills to pay and I refused to make my parents take on that burden in addition to them letting me live rent free, with all the food and laundry I could possibly want. I knew I had to do something and someone suggested substitute teaching. Welcome to what I felt would be my personal hell! It wasn’t, in fact, I loved it and realized I found personal satisfaction and my mission field within the walls of the very place I never wanted to enter again but that is not a lesson I would have learned if the Lord didn’t tell me NO! This is one of those moments where he really had to take me down to the bare bones of just me and Him to get the message across and amen! Hallelujah! I’m so glad he did!
I’m thankful that the Lord protects me from myself because there was a man I once knew that I was positive was the man of my dreams. He was smart and godly and made me laugh. I had known him since before we could drive and we had a lot in common. For a while I had many prayers that focused on what to do about this situation. I thought if only the Lord would grant this request I would be so happy. He seemed interested but always just out of reach and I was always disappointed. Now as a thirty something woman I am thankfully disappointed because he IS smart and godly and funny but he is also unreliable and unstable and shallow. Had I gone out with him when I had the chance (and I did have the chance) it would have ended in hurt feelings, embarrassment or both. I’ve grown up a LOT since we first met but him not so much and the Lord knew that is how it would be. If the Lord had granted me my request my heart would have gotten involved in a situation that would ultimately have ended in a not great way. For years I thought of him as a missed opportunity but one day I realized he was a blessed escape. Once again, I am so thankful that I was disappointed.
Finally, I’m thankful the Lord keeps me in seasons of life when I would gladly move on. Several years ago I was going through what every teacher experiences at least once if they stay in education and that is a nightmare year. My students were from the fires of Hell itself and I was not supported by my administration with many of the issues I was experiencing. I left everyday with a headache and wanted to cry, cuss and scream from 8 AM to 4 PM. I was miserable and realized that while I loved teaching I HATED education and I had to get out for my own sanity! Around this same time I had someone request that I apply at the company they worked for in town. This job would put me back working in the business world and would double my salary from day one. It seemed like an answer to so many prayers. I interviewed locally and with corporate. I even did a “practice” day with one of the local affiliates. I just knew that this was going to be my saving grace but it wasn’t. For reasons that were unfair (and slightly illegal) I didn’t get the job. I was so disappointed because I wanted out but the Lord could see the big picture where I could only see the few steps in front of me and even those were dim.
That job would not have brought me personal satisfaction in the way I needed. The pay would have been lovely and the lack of daily stressors great but at the end of the day I now can see that this career change would not have made me happy for the long haul. Ironically, the corporate office has contacted me several times in the last few years asking me if I would reconsider and work for them to which I have politely declined. The Lord put me here for a purpose and sometimes that purpose is just to provide a smile, college advice or ranch dressing for a kid’s salad. This no from the Lord is one of the most grateful sighs of relief that has ever occurred in my life but at the time I cried because I couldn’t see the big picture yet.
It was one of those moments when you’re laying face down in the carpet sobbing your guts out and you just have to throw your hands up and tell God you trust Him but you 100% do not understand and you are 100% not at peace about His decision. You know what’s great about those moments? Your Father doesn’t leave you in the floor to sob alone. He will gladly pick you up and hold you if you will allow Him. It doesn’t mean the circumstances change but oh the difference when you are being held by your Father.
So think back on the last few years of your life. Are there moments that were such a disappointment for you at the time that you now realize were an amazing blessing? Have you seen the hand of God at work in your story even in little ways? Do these moments help you trust the Father more when another uncertainty or disappointment arises in your life? In the end, we know disappointments are going to happen and we may not always get an answer for why on this side of heaven but it’s nice to know that the Lord really does work for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28) and you can’t help but be grateful when you truly take the time to recognize His provisions.