Is it possible to be thankful for what you lost?  I know it’s Thanksgiving season and we are focused on being grateful for the many blessings we have.   However, in some cases, homes and jobs have been lost.  Hope for some is fading.  It’s hard to be thankful because of growing fear and uncertainty.    How can you be thankful when you feel like you’ve lost so much?

Philippians 4:11-12 says, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

How do you apply that scripture to everyday life, especially if you are struggling?  I had to re-learn this a few years ago when I dealt with an unexpected loss of something I valued.   For a time, I struggled with coming to terms with the disappointment of the loss.   Then it hit me one day:   the loss was really God making room for what he really wanted me to have.   And, less than one month later, God blessed me with something better than what I’d previously complained about losing.   

We complain to God and wonder why he doesn’t give us certain things when we pray for them.     Spiritual temper tantrums might happen when we send up heart-felt prayers and they are not answered.      We spend so much time focusing on what we didn’t get that we miss what God has for us on the other side of that disappointment: A challenge to trust Him again.  And in trusting him again comes the opportunity to show obedience to God’s awesome sovereignty. 

Do we pass the test of being able to congratulate the person who got their prayers answered when their prayer was similar to ours?   An even bigger test is praying that God would bless that person as they accepted those new blessings if/when they run into difficulties.   Being able to pray that kind of prayer requires that we go back to thanking God for what we didn’t get…regardless of the reason we believe he didn’t allow it to happen for us.   Sometimes when we get blessings from God, we quickly forget that he is sovereign; we’d rather give credit to our prayer partner.  

It seems a little odd to thank God for not giving you something, but this kind of thankfulness is just as important because it forces us to take a crash course in spiritual maturity.   Not getting a prayer answered is God’s ironic reminder that he really is still in control, knows what is best for us and is working things out on our behalf.  

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Shewanda Riley is a Dallas, Texas based author of “Love Hangover: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.”   Email her at or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.