Thanksgiving is here, and, to most of us Americans, that means turkey dinners, a couple I’m-thankful-for statements, the Macy’s Day parade, and football. It’s easy to be thankful when there’s a giant turkey on the table with all the trimmings, family and friends gathered around in a jolly mood, and your favorite team is winning on the big screen. But what about when there’s no pumpkin pie, fuzzy feelings, or smiling faces? What happens then?
In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he gives his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ some final instructions before closing. He says this in 1 Thessalonians 5:18:
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Did you see that? Give thanks in all circumstances.
But wait a second there, Paul, you may say. Are you sure about that? Giving thanks in ALL circumstances? What about when my grandma dies or I have to move to another state? What about when my grades are low and my best friend just starts hating on me for no reason? You want me to be thankful when everything is, well falling apart and going downhill?
Yes, actually. That is what Paul is saying.
More Than A Hiding Place by Emily S. Smith chronicles the story of a woman who lived during World War II in Haarlem, the Netherlands. This woman’s name was Corrie ten Boom. The daughter of a watchmaker, Corrie loved Jesus with all of her heart. When WWII came to her country, she and her family helped many Jews escape the clutches of the Nazis (I actually got to visit Corrie’s house and saw where they hid the Jews!). Sadly, the ten Boom family was caught by the Nazis. Corrie and her sister Betsie punished by being sent to a concentration camp, Ravensbrück.
The barracks where the women in the camp slept were filthy and crowded. Lice was a big problem amongst the prisoners. One day, Corrie complained to Betsie about their living conditions. And do you want to know what Betsie said?
“You must thank God for everything, even for the lice.”
And guess what? Those lice are the one thing that kept the German guards from searching the barracks. Therefore, Betsie and Corrie could hide a tiny Bible that they used to hold Bible studies twice a week in the barracks, even though the Bible was forbidden. The women of Ravensbrück found hope in the Word and studied it eagerly. It was then that Corrie learned to be thankful for even the lice.
Give thanks for everything. Isn’t it beautiful that a woman who’s been through so much can give thanks for a thing such as lice in the filthy barracks of a concentration camp?
Give thanks for everything. Give thanks in all circumstances. Two radical challenges in today’s world.
This Thanksgiving, I want to challenge all of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to give thanks for everything no matter the circumstances. To adopt an attitude of thanksgiving for all we’ve been richly blessed with, though it may not seem like it at the time. Turkey or no turkey, great circumstances or not-so-great ones, let us all take Paul’s instruction and follow Corrie’s lead.
It’s God’s will for us in Christ Jesus, after all.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.”
2 Chronicles 20:21