Every time I slid behind the wheel of my cheerful yellow car, I gave thanks. The Lord had provided this used car at an affordable price just in time for a cross-country ministry trip. This direct answer to prayer was perfect for hauling my toddler and preschooler around town. That’s why I couldn’t understand why I had to lose it.
My husband, Larry, and I spent a month on a mission trip in Eastern Europe. The experience filled our hearts and emptied our pocketbooks. Our mission organization required us to raise money for our salary and the trip. Donations came in designated for the trip. However, we returned to short paychecks. We realized some donors had diverted their regular support for our trip, not added to it.
Larry’s elderly grandfather passed away, and Larry’s parents offered us his 1973 green Buick La Sabre. Since Granddad’s car wouldn’t sell for much, Larry decided to sell my car to solve our financial shortfall.
I stared at the rust spots that showed through oxidized paint and grimaced. The vinyl roof, that had baked in the hot Arizona heat during Granddad’s decline, peeled like a bad sunburn. The dingy interior recalled Granddad’s years of smoking.
Larry and I worked with high school students in one of the wealthiest areas in the country. Our rundown vehicle stood out like a bikini in a monastery among the polished Mercedes and BMWs in our church parking lot.
One day, a young man helped me carry my groceries to my car. “Let me guess which car you drive,” he said. I inwardly winced. He began pointing out cars I wished I could claim. Reluctantly, I summoned my courage and pointed to the green dinosaur. “Oh. I like vintage cars,” he said.
If the appearance wasn’t bad enough, the car was also unreliable. One morning it stalled on a busy eight-lane intersection with my children in their car seats. A kind stranger, in the next lane, motioned for us to join her.
A friend took pity on us and arranged to have the car painted and a new vinyl roof installed to surprise Larry. I’m not sure what I expected, but the fresh exterior didn’t make this dated monstrosity any more appealing to me. It was not the sporty car I missed.
After dropping off students from Bible Study that night, my disappointment blanketed me on the drive home and I sensed the Lord interrupt my thoughts with a clear question. Debbie, have you thanked Me for this car?
What a question. Why would I thank You when I am not thankful?
Scripture immediately flooded my thoughts. “Give thanks in all circumstances… ‘We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
To refuse to give thanks now would be blatant disobedience. Oh Lord, You know how I feel about this car. How can you ask me to be thankful?
The pressure persisted. Lord, I do not feel thankful. This car is ugly and has caused me inconvenience and humiliation. I took a deep breath and continued. But if You insist—thank You; thank You for knowing my needs. Thank You that this is Your will for me now. Thank You that You will use this for my good.
It wasn’t until later that I realized God changed me that night. My grudge and self-consciousness vanished. The car stopped breaking down—maybe because we had replaced every hose and valve, or maybe because of God’s grace.
The next year we moved from sunny California to northern Indiana. The green giant’s spacious interior and heavyweight provided a smooth ride. It started with the first crank in below-freezing temperatures. Its heater never failed. While fellow seminarians worried about how the salted roads would tarnish their cars, we had no concerns. The car became an asset and moved us to Oklahoma where we finally sold it.
This unwanted gift taught me a valuable lesson. It’s not hypocritical to thank God before you feel thankful. Giving thanks is about trusting God, and God really does work all things together for the good of His children.
Buy your copy of Debbie W. Wilson’s new book Little Faith, Big God.
Debbie W. Wilson is an experienced Bible study teacher, ministry leader, and speaker. She has over 35 years of expertise, training, and teaching in the areas of relationships, Bible study, counseling, and discipleship. Her books include Give Yourself a Break and Little Women, Big God. She and her husband Larry founded Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit biblical counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. Find free resources to refresh your faith and connect with Debbie at debbieWwilson.com
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