The Overflow

living in the overflow of God's goodness through every season

How Losing Something Taught me Gratitude

SnapshotsJoanna Chipman5 Comments

I’ve heard it said that if God says something multiple times in the Bible then it’s a really big deal. So I figure that when God says something in your life more than once, you’d better take notice.

Photo Credit: Cassidy Shooltz

Photo Credit: Cassidy Shooltz

Last week I started reading a new book alongside my Bible for my morning devotions. It’s about being thankful in everything and choosing to praise God at all times. A couple days into the week, I found out my dearest, most favorite aunt is dealing with some serious health issues. I cried and I asked God why. Thank Him for her. So I thanked God for my aunt, my beautiful sweet aunt who has been more like another mom to me. She’s encouraged me through hard times and rejoiced with me in the happy ones. No one would argue that I’m a miniature version of her, and I couldn’t be more okay with that.

Later that evening my sister texted me and told me to pray for my brother. He’d gone out on an errand and hadn’t come home. No one knew where he was and his phone was dead so we couldn’t get a hold of him. It ended pretty comically due to the fact that my grandparents had forgotten he was at a school meeting, but it didn’t transpire without much worry and wringing of hands on my part. My husband was out playing racquetball and came home as soon as he heard the news. He brought with him the largest Starbucks chai tea latte I’ve ever seen in my life. I drank that thing right down to the very last drop, too. Jonathan encouraged, comforted, and reassured me. It hit me again: Thank God. So I did. I thanked Him for giving me such a loving, caring and fun brother and for all the sweet memories we had together. I also thanked him for my husband who portrays the love Christ has for his bride in every way he loves me. I’m blessed.

Later, on an evening last week, I sat down to do my homework/prep for a new Bible study I was attending the next morning. We’ve been visiting a church and I was so excited to go to this mom’s group. We had only visited the church one time, but were eager to go back and get to know this body of Christ more. That Sunday the pastor preached a soul-searching sermon about giving EVERYTHING to God. Were we willing to live like EVERYTHING we were or had was His? Then the Bible study on Thursday morning was about the Thessalonians becoming believers. Each of us was asked to share something we were thankful for that week, I was thankful for God’s protection.

Thursday morning dawned and my husband walked out the door to leave for work. But quickly he was back inside calling for me and I knew something was wrong. I raced downstairs and was met with the fact that his car had been stolen. Gone right out from under us. No sign of how it disappeared but the unquestionable fact that it was indeed gone. The police came and went and God has provided a way for him to get to work all week and me to get around town while we’ve waited to see if the car would turn up before we went to buy a new one. But on the way to Bible study that morning I wasn’t thanking God. No, I was praying, praying that God would bring that thief to justice, that God would bring back our car and make things right. I was calm and collected externally but internally praise was the last thing on my mind.

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I got to Bible study and shared my prayer request for our car situation with the group. Then we dove into the study and had to share what we had been thankful for that week. As I looked at my notes I was convicted. I shared that I had written that I was thankful for God’s protection and I realized that God had protected us that morning even if I hadn’t been thanking Him for it yet. He had allowed only the car to be stolen and not allowed anyone to come into the house. He chose to protect us and give us sweet sleep that night and I needed to be thankful for that. Then one of the ladies shared about how faith (as it tied in with the Bible study) meant completely leaning on God in every circumstance. It meant praising Him in all things. It meant trusting Him even though we could not see the reasons. It meant choosing to have the right attitude even when bad things happened. Then she used my morning experience as an example for the group. "Now here," she said, "is a great example where a bad thing happened but Joanna can exercise her faith and really live it out. Instead of being upset, she can use this as an opportunity to pray for the person who stole the car." My mind reeled. I had been praying for justice for the thief but certainly not praying that God would use this for good in that person’s life. She continued, "This can be a great example of living out faith by how they react to the situation. Instead of getting upset, my prayer is that people will marvel at how they handle this in faith, trusting God." My brain was going in circles now! Another lady then led us into our study and we saw how the Thessalonians gave up their idols and turned to God, a deliberate act that was the result of belonging to God.  Our application? We must choose to act in faith because we are God’s. I left Bible study convicted, humbled, blessed, and excited to be thanking and praising Him for what He was doing in my life.

Want to know something fun now? When my husband got home from work he said that his coworkers were amazed at his calm response to his car being stolen. He then got the opportunity to share a little about faith and trust. I got crazy excited when he told me this. "Babe!" I exclaimed to him, "women you don’t even know were praying this exact scenario for you this morning! God does awesome things for us, doesn’t He?"

Later that night we found out that close friends of ours lost their first baby who was due in August. My heart twisted with grief and tears poured from my face. Who was I, oh soul, to complain of a loss of a car. I have my husband and two baby boys. We are together as a family and we have what is really important. My perspective was completely changed and I could do nothing but bow in worship and thanksgiving before God, who has given me more than I deserve and has richly blessed me on top of that.

Over the weekend we pondered what all the lessons were that God wanted us to get out of having the car stolen. One that stood out to both of us was that we’ve always talked about how we would love to be able to bless someone with one of the older cars when we got a newer one. We both loved the idea of being able to just give it away and kept saying that we would one day, when we could. After having the car stolen and now facing the fact that we are going to have to get another car no matter what we were faced with the question: could we have given it away and we just thought we couldn’t? Did we refuse to give it away because we thought we couldn’t afford to and so God proved us wrong by taking it away? God is now providing for us to get a new car, but that prompted us to ask ourselves if that was Him trying to tell us that He would have provided for us to give away more freely in the first place? Not just the car, but it’s changed our whole perspective on our earthly possessions. What if we live like they aren’t ours?

On Sunday the pastor preached about God being our Provider. By this point God addressing my lack of thanksgiving and praising and really truly living out my faith over and over again had my attention and the message on Sunday hit home harder than any other lesson lately. My husband and I drove home in awe and wonder at what God is doing in our lives and applied it to what God had been showing us that week. We’ve kept coming back to the calling from God to bless others with what He’s blessed us with, even when we don’t think we’re able to.

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A question we keep having come up though is what about our children? We would love someday to be able to bless them as they’re working through college and/or starting their own family, as some family members did for us. However, we’ve come to realize that trying to worry about that now is not going to help anything. Of course we need to be wise for our family, but what if we did something crazy and just gave it all to God and watched Him work it all out? What a shame it would be if we were so worried about blessing our kids later in life we missed blessing them now by teaching them how to bless others. We had to come face to face with our dreams for our future, lay them before God and realize that maybe He has a completely different plan for us.

Maybe he doesn’t have the big brick house for us or the shiny white car. Maybe what He has for us instead is a life of freely giving to others and teaching our children by example that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. What if giving up the plan of seeing other parts of the world meant we could give our children the gift of serving others? What if our children grew up knowing what it meant to sacrifice pleasure for the sake of serving Christ? What if they grew up with it instilled in their hearts that none of these earthly things matter anyway, and only souls will last for eternity? In this day and age it almost sounds wrong. But it isn’t. Life isn’t about crossing off your bucket list, it’s about truly living for Christ in every circumstance, thanking Him in everything, and praising Him at all times. It’s about that life of faith being lived out in a very real way each and every day. That’s what we want for us. That’s what we want for our children.