Thanksgiving is a time to count our blessings and thank God for His care and provision. However, gratitude may come more easily in some years than in others. When life is filled with difficulties and unanswered prayers, isn’t it comforting to know that the Lord understands our struggle with ingratitude? If you or someone you know is finding it difficult to be grateful this year because of a prayer that seems to have gone unanswered, I want to offer some hope.
If we experience seasons when heaven seems to be silent in response to our prayers, there could be two possible reasons. First of all, our requests may not be according to God’s will. He has a unique plan for each of our lives, and He’s personally involved in seeing that plan fulfilled. Second, our prayers may not be based on the promises of His Word. That’s why it’s important to become familiar with the Scriptures. Then whenever we find promises that apply to us, we can claim them with confidence and see how faithful our Lord is.
Early in my career as a pastor, I was feeling inadequate for the responsibilities God had entrusted to me. Along with pastoring my first church, I was preparing to teach at a Bible institute. Fresh out of seminary, I was in desperate need of the Lord’s help. Therefore, in obedience to His instructions in Ephesians 5:18, I asked to “be filled with the Spirit.” However, I still felt uncertain until I came across 1 John 5:14: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” All my searching had led to a simple conclusion: I can trust that God’s promises are for me, too.
This is the same lesson Abraham learned. The Lord gave him some amazing promises, but Abraham had to wait a long time to see the answers. In fact, he lived his entire life without seeing the ultimate fulfillment of the covenant God made with him.
Abraham’s experiences demonstrate a few basic principles that can help us regain a grateful heart in the midst of disappointment over unanswered prayer. First of all, God’s promises are clearly stated in His Word. In Genesis 12:1-3, the Lord spoke directly to Abraham, promising that He would make him into a great nation and that all the peoples of the earth would be blessed through him.
Today we have His written Word, which is filled with promises. Do you have a few Scriptural promises that guide and anchor you in life’s storms? When trouble comes, you can confidently say, “Lord, this is what you have said in Your Word, and I’m going to trust and believe You.”
Second, the Lord gives guidance along with His promises. When God told Abraham to leave his country, He promised to show him where to go (v. 1). The Lord doesn’t want us to stumble around in the dark trying to find His will. He’s committed to giving us instructions and guidance through His Word and His Spirit so we can confidently walk in His will (Ps. 119:105; John 16:13).
Third, the fulfillment of God’s promises may seem impossible from our perspective. When the Lord told Abraham he would become a great nation (Gen. 12:2), he had good reason to be skeptical because he and Sarah were childless. And the impossibility only grew as the years passed. By the time Isaac was finally born, Sarah was 90 and Abraham, 100. Is your situation as impossible as theirs? Are you willing to wait for God’s perfect timing?
Fourth, radical faith and obedience is often required of us before the Lord fulfills His promises. The biggest test of Abraham’s life came when God told him to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22:1-3). How could the Lord keep His promise to make him a great nation if Isaac were dead? Despite the apparent contradiction, Abraham obeyed, believing God would raise Isaac from the dead if need be (Heb. 11:17-19). As he lifted the knife to kill Isaac, the Lord intervened and provided a ram instead (Gen. 22:10-13).
Abraham’s story shows us that the Lord keeps His promises but not always according to our expectation of how or when. You may not comprehend what the Lord is doing in your life right now, but you can learn from Abraham’s example of faith and obedience. If you’ll focus your expectations on the Lord’s will and expand your perspective to include eternity, gratitude will soon fill your heart.
I’d like to encourage you this Thanksgiving season to look back at the times you have experienced God’s faithfulness. What promises in His Word has He kept in your life? As you review all His blessings, pause and thank Him. Then let these experiences prompt you to believe Him for your present circumstances.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. I can truthfully say that here at In Touch Ministries, we consider you to be one of God’s greatest blessings to us. Thank you so much for partnering with us to impact this world for Christ. I wish you and your loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving.