Dirty dishes filled the sink. My husband had just lost his job, the car broke down on his way home, I had no idea what to cook for dinner, and the baby was crying.
So was I.
It was one of those days when nothing seemed right. But in my little pile of pity as I sat in the middle of the floor with my son in my lap, God began to do a work in my heart. There were dishes in the sink, and they were only dirty because we had plenty of food to eat. While we didn’t know where our next check would come from, all our bills were up-to-date, and God had always been faithful before to meet our needs. Though not fully functional, we were wealthy enough to own a car – a luxury most of the rest of the world only dreams about. At least I had food to cook, heat to cook it with, and a table at which to eat it. Many people had lost a child, or were never able to have one, and would love to hold a baby, crying or not. Even my tears meant that I had enough water in my body to make them.
Slowly, I realized how ungrateful I had been, and how full and bountiful my blessings truly were. As a smile came to my face, my son started giggling. After a prayer of repentance, and thanks, it was off to find a creative way to put a dinner on the table that would cheer my husband up.
You might be tempted to think, “But you don’t understand what I am going through!” You are right, and you may be going through many trials. How about someone who was arrested for refusing to follow ungodly laws, stripped of all her possessions, and placed in a work camp to die with little or no food, and disease everywhere? To add insult to injury, her cramped quarters were filled with fleas!
This was the situation that Corrie ten Boom related in her book The Hiding Place, written about her experience in Nazi Europe as she found herself in the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Her sister admonished her not to complain about the fleas, for surely they were part of God’s plan and they should be thankful for them. Can you imagine being thankful for fleas? But through prayer, they realized that the abundance of fleas meant the guards kept their distance, allowing the sisters to have Bible studies with the other prisoners unmolested.
Paul (who also had his fair share of dank prisons) wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to “give thanks in all circumstances.” So do we really believe in the Bible, or is it just an idea? If we believe, we need to learn to be thankful. So how do we apply this, even when we feel like we have too many lemons and not enough sugar to make lemonade?
- Look for the obvious and hidden blessings.
Sometimes we just need to think about the things we usually take for granted (friends, family, food, etc.) to realize how blessed we truly are. For those of us who live in the United States, we live in prosperity that most of the world cannot even imagine. But sometimes, we need to look deeper. Some of the things that seem like trials really show our blessing—like the dirty dishes. If we have a difficult business decision, it is because we have a business. If we stub our toe it is because we have legs and feet and are able to walk in the first place.
- Pray for strength and courage.
Only God knows our heart and whether we need correction or comfort. Go to Him and He will uncover the source of your thankless attitude and heal it at its root. In prayer we have the opportunity to seek out heaven and ask for back up.
- Believe that God is in control – and loves you!
Remember that you are never alone. We must master the Job spirit of “though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15) God loves you even more than you love yourself. He is working out His purpose in you and in the world. Both in the small crisis of our individual lives, and the coming fears and dangers of the future, God is there and will someday make all things new.
- Focus on others.
When we work toward bringing joy to those around us, our minds become less consumed with our own pain. When I smile, my baby smiles too. When I start thinking about caring for my husband, rather than my own perceived inadequacies, there is a goal and a purpose to my life.
I would like to say that after one experience of this revelation I am able to always be thankful. The truth is that being thankful is a daily decision—not just on special days surrounded by food and family—but every day through the highs and the lows. As new challenges come my way, I have to again learn to look for everything good. In fact, the above story is one that has replayed in various forms several times.
True thankfulness is work, but well worth it. It becomes a light that will lift up all those around you.