Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV).
Friend to Friend
I want to see God today. Don’t you? What I’ve discovered is that there is nothing that will shut my eyes to seeing God’s presence and working in my life than ingratitude.
Ingratitude leaves us groping about in the dark for what will never satisfy the longings of the soul. The cure comes in capsules of praise, thanksgiving, and a grateful heart. Gratitude is the antibiotic of the soul to cure a variety of the world’s ills and restore a sense of intimacy with God.
Take a look at today’s truth. Notice the Bible doesn’t command us to feel thankful in all circumstances. Instead it commands us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” When I begin to praise God in a difficult situation, even if I don’t feel like it, my perspective changes. That was a lesson Corrie ten Boon learned from her sister Betsie as they suffered together in a German concentration camp during World War II. They lived in Barracks 28 in overcrowded filthy conditions and nauseating stench. Reeking straw. Rancid beds. Overflowing toilets. And fleas. Everywhere fleas.
On their first day in the barracks, as Corrie was fighting the nausea from the reeking straw, and the fleas were biting her one after another, she cried out, “Betsie, how can we live in such a place!” And Betsy remembered a Bible verse they had read that very day. First Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances.”
“That's it, Corrie!” Betsie exclaimed. “That's His answer. Give thanks in all circumstances!’ That's what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!”
Corrie stared at her sister; then around the dark, foul-aired room and wondered what in the world they had to be thankful for. With Betsie’s help, she agreed to give thanks for the fact that they were together, that they snuck a Bible into the camp, and that the overcrowded conditions made it possible for more women to hear the Scriptures when they read each day. But she could not see clear to thank God for the fleas.
"The fleas!” she cried. “This is too much Betsie. There’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”
"'Give thanks in all circumstances,'” Betsie quoted. “It doesn't say, 'in pleasant circumstances.' Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”
And so they stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time Corrie was sure Betsie was wrong.
One evening Corrie got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. Betsie was waiting for her, as always, so that they could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.
"You're looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,” Corrie told her.
"You know, we've never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” Betsie replied. “Well—I've found out. This afternoon, there'd been confusion in our knitting group about sock sizes and they'd asked the supervisor to come and settle it. But she wouldn't. She wouldn't step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?"
Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: “Because of the fleas! That's what she said. That place is crawling with fleas!"
Sometimes I don’t see God in difficult situations, but I still can praise Him because I know He is there. Gratitude changes the lens through which we see the circumstances in our little slice of time. Thanksgiving changes our perspective despite shattered dreams, broken relationships, and heart-rending circumstances. It changes our perspective in the accumulation of little nuisances in just plain old every day life.
Gratitude is one of the most significant aspects of our relationship with God. Looking back on all the ways God has blessed you will steady your feet in shaky times, no matter what you’re going through. As you praise God for who He is and thank Him for what He’s done, your perspective of Him grows larger and your problems grow smaller.
Heavenly Father, I enter Your gates with thanksgiving and Your courts with praise. I don’t understand the whys and what fors in the struggles of my life. But I do know the Who…the Who that is in control. I will praise You even when I don’t understand. I will praise You in the dark; I will praise You in the light. I will praise You in the good; I will praise You in the bad. I will praise You in seeming success; I will praise You in apparent failure. I will praise You because I know that You cause all things work together for my good.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Read Habakkuk 3:17-19. What did Habakkuk say he was going to do, even though he didn’t see the answers to all his prayers?
Can you praise God with a grateful heart even if you do not see the answers to your prayers?
Do you trust that God has everything under His control and has your best interest at heart?
In what ways do your thoughts, words, and actions confirm your answer?
How are you doing with your list of 100 things you are grateful for?
More From the Girlfriends
Do you long for something more in your relationship with God? Do you have a “glory ache”—a hunger to experience God’s presence on a daily basis? The good news is that God wants that even more than you do. Right smack dab in the spin of the laundry and the sizzle of the bacon—as you live and more and have your being in Him. Dust for His fingerprints on the pages of your everyday life. My book, A Sudden Glory: God’s Lavish Response to Your Ache for Something More will show you how. Click on the link to read a sample chapter. I think you’ll be hooked. It also includes a study guide and free online Bible study videos.
Seeking God? Click here to find out more about how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Adapted from The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (Old Tappan, NJ: A Bantam book published by Fleming Revell, 1971, 1974).