Thanksgiving for Unpleasant Things

It is easy to thank God when we get what we want the way we want it. Those are the things we usually count, naming them one by one and being pleasantly surprised at what the Lord has done.

Counting blessings is good for anybody. No honest person could look these over and not thank God.

The trouble is that too often our thanksgiving stops there. Why not look a little deeper and take time to thank God for some of the things we tried to escape?

David did a lot of singing about the blessings of God upon him and the presence of God about him. However there was one hour of God’s great goodness which did not kindle a song.

The hour when Nathan the prophet looked him squarely in the eye and said, "Thou art the man," was not exactly a time for tunes. Yet in that hour all the good and all the glory of his life hung in the balance.

In that painful time for humiliation God was blessing him with redemptive mercy and saving discipline. The fact that he became a penitent sinner enabled God to make him a redeemed sinner who would bless the world with songs.

Saul of Tarsus was a man of good intentions and honorable repute but he was going down the wrong road. He was allowing the practices and concepts of the past to blind him to the truth. Prejudice fired his actions while his friends encouraged his frenzied fury against the Lord Jesus Christ.

The last person Saul expected to meet on the Damascus road was the Lord, but the Lord did not ask him what he wanted. The Lord knocked him into the dust, trapped him in his folly, and showed him a moment of truth.

What humiliation it was! Yet he cried out, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’’

It was a moment of terrible upheaval. He was the laughingstock of his friends. The people who believed in him looked upon him in unbelief. His own inner order went skittering into chaos from which it took months to recover.

He had been blind to the ministry of Jesus Christ, deaf to the dying words of Stephen, and merciless toward the brave Christians whom he brought to punishment; but suddenly he knew the horrible truth of his blindness. This was an experience he had neither wanted nor prayed for, but for it he owed God thanks.

Dr. P. F. Bresee thanked God for his fruitful ministry in Los Angeles and throughout California. We join in that thanksgiving.

However, Dr. Bresee sang no songs about the time of humiliation which placed him there. He had been a successful pastor and was becoming a very successful financial investor on the side. He was becoming wealthy and rejoiced in it. He asked the bishop for a smaller parish, so that he could have more time to care for his increasing success.

Then in one fell blow his financial world collapsed. He was suddenly poor among people who thought him rich. The humiliation was more than he could bear and he fled to California without a pastorate and without a plan.

In that hour of humiliation God spoke clearly and firmly. A new meaning gripped his life; a new experience of holiness burned in his soul. A new man took a new appointment, and his greatest days were ahead. Thank God for giving him that for which he had no desire and from which he prayed to escape!

Many are serving God today who would be serving sin had it not been that God blessed them with something they did not want. Many of them have become valuable leaders. Others have become solid Christian workers. Some, rejecting the divine mandate of the hour, have slipped through the cracks and no one knows who they were. Why not get alone with God at this Thanksgiving time in the utter honesty of a secret place and thank Him for the things we tried so hard to avoid?

Let us thank God for His stubborn persistence that seeks to save us from ourselves and our folly. It is well to count our blessings and sing about them, but for our own inner enrichment we need once in a while to acknowledge the blessings which come clothed in ugly garments.

Sometimes it has been the death of a loved one. Sometimes it has been wrapped in our own physical pain. Sometimes a business failure leaves us impoverished in earthy things. Sometimes it is a heartache in the family or a personal hour of looking death in the eye at close range.

In those times something within us tries to run from truth, but God’s persistence brings us back. Thank God for the things He sent which we hated bitterly to accept but from which life was brought back into shape for abundant living.

Milo L. Arnold

Herald of Holiness November 24, 1971


Please note: This article was originally published in 1971. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.