I stood there staring at it numbly. My first car, my faithful companion, my first taste of freedom as a driver now looked as though it had lost a fight and had a black eye to prove it. Its crinkled hood sighed out steam and smoke.
The other fighter lay lifeless on the side of the road a few yards behind my car. Sadly, that poor deer was not the only participant permanently immobilized by the unfortunate circumstances of the last five minutes. My car was totaled.
I looked over at my mother and saw tears rolling down her cheeks. Maybe she felt the same sorrow I did over this huge loss, or perhaps her tears stemmed from all the nervous excitement of the last few minutes. “Are you okay, Mom?” I asked.
“Yeah, son. I’m okay.”
“What happened? Are you hurt?”
“No, son, I’m just thankful.”
I had to agree. We were unharmed and had not lost control of the car. The airbags remained un-deployed, and neither of us had whiplash.
However, her gratitude stemmed not only from the fact that we were safe but also because she had prayed only a few hours earlier that I would get in a minor car crash that would set me back from my 12-hour trip to Michigan the next morning. A sense of betrayal and bitterness briefly filled my heart.
Then I realized something. It’s easy to be grateful when things go your way. Yet even when they don’t, if you can see that God may have liberated you from something worse, some of the frustrations ease away. The loss of my first car was pointless in my limited view, a needless expense and an inconvenience. However, I may never know what God prevented me from being involved in. I did not understand my mom’s premonition that something terrible might occur on the drive up to Michigan, but it was a feeling strong enough to pray that I get in a minor accident to delay me. In those tough moments of seemingly meaningless frustration and uninvited pain, God calls us to gratitude: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV.
There will be days I feel over the moon with what God gifts me in life, and there will be days I mourn the senseless loss of something or someone I love. But in every one of those moments, God calls me to give thanks, whether or not I understand what He is doing.