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Thankful for What Might Have Been but Wasn’t

by Bob Russell

Nov. 22, 2020 on www.bobrussell.org

 

     I fell down last week.  My wife and I were walking to the car, and as I followed her into the garage, I slipped on the middle step and went tumbling onto the concrete headfirst.  I caught myself on my elbows and avoided banging my head on the cement or hitting it against the bumper of the car.

My wife heard the thud, turned around, and saw me sprawled out on the floor, and cried out, “Oh, Bob! Did you fall?”  I moved my arms and shoulders to make sure I hadn’t broken any bones or dislocated anything and then realized what she had asked.  “Did you fall?”  I started laughing and said, “Did I fall?  No, I just decided this would be a good time to take a nap here on the garage floor!”  Every time we think of that, we chuckle. 

     “Did you fall?”  What kind of question is that when you see your husband sprawled out on the garage floor? If a child falls down, there’s usually not much concern.  Their bones are supple and bendable.  But I’m 77 years old, and I know my bones are more brittle and breakable.  I could have easily dislocated a hip, broken an arm, or something worse. 

     David wrote, “There is but a step between me and death!” (1 Samuel 20:3).

As we drove to our meeting, I kept thinking, “I could be on the way to the Emergency Room right now.  I could be in line for a hip replacement or having to wear a shoulder harness on my right side.  I could be facing surgery to relieve a brain bleed. Wow! Thank you, Lord, for what might have been but wasn’t.”

     I’ve given that some thought this week.  I wonder how many times God’s providential care has spared us from potential disaster, and we weren’t even aware of it.  Or we didn’t pause to thank Him for it.  1 Peter 1:5 says we “are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”  Obviously, God doesn’t shield us from all disasters, or we would never fall, break an arm, or be injured in an accident.  But I suspect the Lord’s guardian angels prevent a lot more than we imagine.

     Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.”  I wonder how many times the Lord has nudged us away from situations that could have morally ensnared us or spiritually ruined us.  At the time, we weren’t aware of our Heavenly Father’s protective shield, but He gently guided us away from dangerous seductions that were greater than we could overcome.  Jude wrote that God “is able to keep you from falling” (Jude 1:24).

     A preacher friend texted me this past week, “I went to the doctor this morning.  It’s just a fatty tumor (not malignant) which is good news.  But it needs to come out to not cause more damage to my arm or grow into anything else.”  He’s expressing gratitude this Thanksgiving season for what might have been and wasn’t.

     If we look carefully, we can all find some calamities that “might have been” yet never materialized.  Falls survived, accidents avoided, tragedies escaped, embarrassing blunders unnoticed.  We spend a good amount of time complaining about the times we’ve skinned our knees or bruised our elbows.  But we’ll probably never know the full extent of the times God’s strong right arm has gone up to deliver us from evil.

     This Thanksgiving season, take time to enumerate the tangible blessings God has given you.  “Count your many blessings; name them one by one.”  And while you’re at it, take a moment to thank Him for the tragedies that might have been but never happened.  I suspect there are a lot of them in each of our lives because God does “immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.”

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:15-17).

 

                Bob Russell is retired Senior Minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY.




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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10