Thankful for what God Doesn’t Give
I’ve been increasingly growing to love the Thanksgiving holiday season over the past few years. It’s a specific period of time that reminds me of the realities I should hold as important in my life all the time… namely, the goodness of God and His many blessings.
I’ve recently written a couple of articles on the topics of “desires and the believer.” It’s easy to want more than what God has given, and this can easily lead to discontentment. Sometimes, God lets us have our way in giving us what we ask for. Sometimes, He doesn’t. Regardless, of whether He answers our prayers according to our desires or not, He promises to supply our needs (Philippians 4:19). He knows what is truly best for us, and is working to conform the believer to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). We should joyfully acknowledge Him as the Giver and continually surrender the gifts He has given back to Him.
This year has been filled with many trials and stresses for a lot of people, myself included. Yet, in the midst of all of them, God has given many blessings, and most importantly He doesn’t change (James 1:17). He is still good and worthy of thanksgiving.
Sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged and to fail to see the blessings of God when caught up in the midst of trials. Sometimes it’s hard to give thanks when you don’t feel like it. But, thankfulness can still be cultivated in many practical ways.
Circumstances shouldn’t determine our level of thankfulness. Scripture tells us that it is God’s will for us to “give thanks in all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Annie Johnson Flint
Annie Johnson Flint was a woman who understood the meaning of those words.
Annie Johnson was born on Christmas Eve in 1866. Her mother died a few years later while giving birth to her younger sister. Her father, Mr. Johnson, was suffering from an incurable disease and willed the girls to the Flint family, who were able to provide a home for the girls and raise them in the teachings of the Lord. Annie’s father died by the time Annie was six.
When Annie was eight, the Flint family moved to Vineland, New Jersey, where there were revival meetings in progress. During one of these meetings, Annie accepted Christ as her Savior from sin.
After finishing high school, Annie began teaching in the elementary school in which she had grown up. While she had been offered another position, she chose this one so she could care for the failing health of her adopted parents, the Flints. During her second year of teaching, she was afflicted with arthritis that made her unable to teach. Shortly after being diagnosed with her condition, Annie’s adopted parents died within two months of one another.
Annie’s condition was growing worse, to the point that she struggled to walk, and her sister struggled with failing health as well. Annie was encouraged to go to the sanitarium at Clifton Springs in New York where she might find healing. However, the doctors informed her that she would only grow worse and become a helpless invalid.
As Annie’s body deteriorated, she filled some of her time in writing. She had loved poetry from childhood, and now used her ability to express herself in verse. Some of these were published and provided a small income for her. Perhaps, her most well-known poems which have been turned into songs are, “He Giveth More Grace” and “God Hath Not Promised.”
As her condition worsened, she struggled to walk and was confined to a wheelchair, her fingers grew stiff and her joints were swollen. Eventually, she lost the ability to open her hands and was forced to use her knuckles to type on a typewriter. Left to the care of others as she became increasingly incapable of caring for herself.
However, Annie did not bemoan her condition. She lived in constant pain for over forty years; yet, she saw beyond what she was experiencing and wrote her poems to encourage others in their pain and trials. She chose as her life verse, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). She went to be with the Lord on September 8th, 1932.
If anyone had reason to be ungrateful or discontent, Annie did; but instead of choosing to be so, she chose to encourage and serve others. She used her limited strength to write poems and songs. Her poetry reveals a perspective that is focused on the Lord, even in the midst of trials.
Below is a poem by Annie Johnson Flint that has meant a lot to me over the last several years. It reminds me that whatever God gives or withholds is out of His grace and love. My personal prayer is that my heart may continually bow in submission to His good will.
For all Thy blessings given there are many to thank Thee, Lord,
But for the gifts withholden I fain would add my word.
For good things I desired that barred me from the best,
The peace at the price of honour, the sloth of a shameful rest;
The poisonous sweets I longed for to my hungering heart denied,
The staff that broke and failed me when I walked in the way of pride;
The tinsel joys withheld that so content might still be mine,
The help refused that might have made me loose my hand from Thine;
The light withdrawn that I might not see the dangers of my way;
For what Thou hast not given, I thank Thee, Lord today.
~Annie Johnson Flint
In the struggles and trials of life, it’s easy to think we have nothing to be thankful for. We miss the blessings that God has given, and we fail to see how good He is. We forget that He has our best interests in mind. Whatever He gives or takes away is for His glory and our good.
“For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:7-8).