“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18, NKJV)
No one is born an automatically thankful person. If it’s been a while since you were either born, or spent time around small children, just ask a parent. (I have been amazed at the ingratitude inherent in the nature of my children, until I actively train them elsewise). Or, check in the book of Psalms: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5, NIV).
We were all born with a bent towards selfishness. Thankfully, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! However, in His great love for us, He is fiercely committed to setting us free from the slavery of self-centeredness. Living the “life more abundantly” that Jesus promised us includes discovering the glorious liberty of a thankful heart.
Corrie Ten Boom, one of my favorite heroes in the faith, told a story about life in the concentration camp during World War II. Her sister Betsie was encouraging her to put into practice the Bible’s exhortation that we give thanks in all circumstances — even in the midst of the hellish environment of Ravensbrück. Corrie protested, looking around at the desolate prisoners surrounding her. Lice crawled over them constantly and they shuddered wretchedly in the unforgiving frigid weather. She wondered how she could possibly muster up any sincere gratitude, under the severe conditions they were enduring,
The moment came when Corrie realized that the guards never came into the barracks because of their aversion to lice. This created the perfect opportunity at nighttime for Betsie and Corrie to share the gospel with all the other women suffering in the camp alongside them. In the midst of their misery, many of these precious souls came to know Jesus before the gas chambers sent them on into eternity. No authorities ever came into the building to interrupt the quiet evangelistic mission of these two valiant ambassadors of heaven. Tiny bloodthirsty insects kept them away. Yes indeed, Corrie learned — there was much reason to be profoundly thankful for the lice!
Gratitude is a choice, one that can be chosen even in the most dark and painful of circumstances. Cultivating a thankful heart is a habit that each of us must learn if we desire to experience true joy.
Every time that the reality staring us in the face is ugly and difficult – and we take a deep breath and choose to thank the Father in the midst of it – our gratitude roots grow down deeper. Eventually, the chosen discipline of purposeful thanksgiving will blossom into the overflowing joy of a spontaneously grateful heart.
“Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him. See that you go on growing in the Lord… let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all he has done.” (Col. 2:7, TLB)