Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 (New International Version)
What? In all circumstances? Come on, God, you don’t really mean that, do you? I am supposed to give thanks for everything – even the crummy, dirty, unfair stuff? I try to remember to show my appreciation when good things happen and even remember some of the time to shot up a “hey thanks, God” for some of the ordinary events in life, but really God, in ALL things?
Oswald Chambers reminds us that “The best measure of the spiritual life is not its ecstasies, but its obedience.”
Difficult, isn’t it? I have a long way to go in learning to express thanks, but here are three thoughts about Thanksgiving that are nurturing a spirit of gratitude within me.
Pay Attention for Times to be Thankful:
What little, hidden or forgotten moments in life can I pay attention to more often? Exam of conscious is a spiritual practice where at the end of each day we reflect back over the events of the day, asking questions. Questions could be: “When did I sense God’s presence today?” or “How did I express love to others and to God?”
The two questions that have helped nurture thankfulness in my life are: What am I most grateful today and what am I least grateful for?
When I first began asking these questions I thought identifying what went wrong with the day would be the easiest, but have found overwhelmingly I see multiple points of gratitude clearer than the difficult times. In fact, many times what during the day appeared covered with dirt, later bathed in prayer reveals a nugget of truth to guide my life.
By paying attention to the many times God blesses my daily moments helps me to cultivate a renewed sense of thankfulness.
The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings! ~Henry Ward Beecher
Practice Giving Thanks
This story has long haunted my memory and stands as an example of the value of saying thanks even when we don’t understand:
Corrie Ten Boom wrote her amazing story of love, courage and forgiveness in the book, The Hiding Place. She and her family helped to hid Jewish families during the Nazi occupation in Holland. Their whole family was arrested and taken to concentrations camps.
Corrie tells this one incident which once I heard, I never forgot:
Corrie and her sister Betsy were taken to the concentration camp and after much persecution arrived at their barracks. After a few days they found that their barracks were infested with lice. Corrie was upset and told Betsy that she didn’t know how she was going to sleep at night knowing that their beds were full of tiny, crawling bugs. Betsy, with her gentle spirit, reminded Corrie that she must thank God for everything.
After a while, Corrie began to wonder why the guards never came to check their barracks as they did the others. It was found out that the guards never came because of the lice. Betsy and Corrie led Bible studies each night without fear, knowing that the guards would not enter their barracks… thanks to the lice!
Corrie’s story reminds me that even the nuisances of life could be opportunities for thanksgiving.
If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice. ~Meister Eckhart
Creatively Express Thanks
Ever hear the story of Martin Rinkart and how he expressed thankfulness?
Rinkart was a Lutheran pastor in Germany in the 1600s and he began his ministry just as the terrible bloodshed of the Thirty Years War erupted. His city of Eilenberg was a walled city which became the refuge for political and military fugitives. This, however, caused serious overcrowding, and deadly pestilence and famine swept through the city. Armies overran it three times, leaving death and destruction in their wake. The population of Germany went from 16 million to 6 million during this time.
In the year 1637 the plague was particularly severe. At its peak, Rinkart was the only pastor remaining in Eilenberg, conducting as many as 50 funerals in a day. He performed more than 4000 funerals in that year alone, including that of his beloved wife.
Yet in the midst of this, Rinkart wrote hymns, in fact, multiple songs for God. One in particular is appropriate for Thanksgiving season “Now Thank We All Our God.” He penned the words:
O may this bounteous God
Through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful heartsAnd blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace,
And guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills
In this world and the next.
Wow, Rinkart models for us a creative way to respond to the challenges in life when all seems lost and gratitude is the last thing in our heart. Not all of us compose music, but I bet most of us could find a way to express thankfulness in some imaginative way.
“Give thanks in all circumstances” through paying attention for times to be thankful,
practice, practice and practice thanking God for even the minute inconveniences in life,
and allow our imagination to led us creatively into thankfulness.
May the gift of gratitude grace you during this holiday season.