My pastor has given a sermon illustration about the importance of giving things in all circumstances several times. The story goes like this:
Fred arrived at church complaining because he had a flat tire. Fred grumbled to George, wondering if God cared about him since his tire blew out on the way to church. Didn’t God know he wanted to worship? Now his attitude was shot. George replied that Fred had nothing to be upset about, instead, he should give thanks. Give thanks? For what? He had to call a tow truck and pay for a taxi to get to church. He didn’t even know how he was getting home. George said Fred should be thankful he had a car to get a flat tire. Some people have to take the bus. Furthermore, Fred should be thankful for the money to buy a car to get a flat tire. He should even thank God for a job that provided him the money to buy the car to get a flat tire. George was stumped. He hadn’t thought about it that way. Maybe he had a lot to thank God for after all.
God has worked in my life a lot in the past few years to grow my gratitude muscles. I have started to notice when God is working in my life, big or small. After I nearly ran out of toilet paper during the start of the pandemic, I thank God almost every day for toilet tissue. I’m also grateful for good health in the last two years. The Lord has blessed me through thick and thin.
First Thessalonians 5:16-8 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (NKJV). When bad things happen, we are to rejoice, not moan. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I groan before giving thanks. I recently had the opportunity to put into practice the very sermon illustration my pastor shared.
On Christmas Eve, my flight home was cancelled. So, I thanked God for my car to drive the twelve- hour trek. My sister and I set out in the late afternoon because she had to work on Christmas Eve. About an hour south of my house, my low-pressure light lit on my dash. I thought maybe the cold had lowered the air in my tires, and I would fill them at the next exit. Then my steering started getting dicey. I pulled over on the side of the road. You guessed it! I had a flat tire. While I struggled to call USAA for help, my sister watched YouTube videos and tried to change the tire. I couldn’t get a human to answer, and wound up in tears when I encountered problems setting up an online account that wouldn’t let me enter my actual location. Meanwhile, the sun was setting. The day was getting darker by the minute.
As I sat there, I watched cars whiz by on the highway. I thought, maybe I should pray for someone who knows how to change tires that isn’t sketchy to stop and help us. Within five minutes, the state Department of Transportation guy pulled up behind us. Praise God! He changed my tire and jumped my car’s battery, dead from overusing the hazard lights.
Driving back to my house instead of home to family for Christmas, my sister was really discouraged about missing time opening presents with our family and eating together. I wasn’t too thrilled either. Then I remembered the story my pastor told. Because I’d heard it so many times, I knew what to do. I started thanking God for how He took care of us.
“Thank You God that we didn’t take a plane. You know that maybe we would’ve gotten COVID or something worse. Thank you for protecting us from the unknown. Thank You God that the flat tire was on the passenger side, so we could be away from the road while changing it. Thank You for sending the Department of Transportation person to help. Thank You God that I have a car to get a flat tire. Thank You God that I have money to buy a car to get a flat tire. Thank You God that I have a job to have money to buy a car to get a flat tire.”
The more I listed the things I was thankful for, the longer the list became. It changed my attitude and helped me drive 45 miles an hour on the highway with people flying at 70 all around me, speeding on my bumper. God held me together through the power of thankfulness. My sister complained because she thought I was doing better. I wasn’t that great, but speaking all the ways God had cared for us in the midst of frustrating times grounded my heart and mind. She drove her car the next day, and my mom held Christmas dinner and gift opening until we arrived. We still had a joyous Christmas together. I even surprised my mom by walking up behind her in the kitchen while she was talking to me on the phone.
God gave me a long list of things to be thankful for that Christmas, that I wouldn’t have appreciated as much without the hardship. Ephesians 5:20 says, “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (NKJV). We are to give thank always for all things, even things that don’t look good on the outset.
I don’t know what type of season you are in now. Maybe you have had more difficulties that just a flat tire and being thankful seems counterintuitive. Let me tell you from experience, a little thankfulness goes a long way in building endurance through hard times. I encourage you to find things you are thankful for even in your darkest hour. The good is there if you look hard enough. If you can’t see it, ask God for His vision. Let God illustrate His love for you no matter your circumstances, even if you have a flat tire.
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Virginia.