In the fifth grade, we were assigned to present short plays adapted from books we had read. My best friend asked me to appear in her scene from Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place.
Corrie and her family were members of the resistance in Holland during World War I, and she spent time in a concentration camp for these activities (which included hiding Jews in a secret room in the family home).
Corrie and her sister Betsie had managed to sneak a Bible into the camp with them, and in our scene they were praying over a verse in First Thessalonians: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
It sounded crazy to Corrie to thank God for their current circumstances, and it probably sounds even crazier to us, but Betsie was able to point out two obvious blessings: that they were assigned to the same camp and that the Bible had not been taken from them. But when she started to give thanks for the fleas in the barracks, Corrie thought she had taken leave of her senses–until later, when the women in their barracks were left untouched by the soldiers who would have raped them but for distaste for the fleas.
Most of us won’t have to deal with circumstances that are so dire, but being thankful in all circumstances is still a great attitude to have, and one I’ve been trying hard to cultivate. Every night I start my prayers by thanking God for everything good about my day. And I don’t mean big things–I mean things like a sunny day, or having time to work in my garden, or a nice dinner, or an easy time getting William’s homework done. I’m not allowed to ASK for anything until I say thank you, and plenty of times I fall asleep before I make it to the end of the gratitude list!
They say that practice makes perfect, and practicing gratitude is no different. When I started doing this I had a harder time coming up with things to be thankful for. Now my list is long and I find myself looking forward to this ritual.
I’ve even come to be grateful for trials, because they’ve led me to be compassionate towards others who suffer. Financial problems, broken cars, difficulties in parenting, even the loss of our home and possessions to fire–all of these have presented me with opportunities to empathize with others who have suffered and have saved me from the temptation to judge them.
This post is part of #1000Speak, a monthly linkup with the goal of writing about and spreading compassion. The topic for this month is Gratitude. To see other posts, please click the picture below.
Love this.. I too have noticed just how easier it has become to list things to give thanks for, and finding the good in a bad situation. It’s always there, we just have to look. And with practice, it’s easier to see.
Oh what a powerful story you shared in the beginning of this piece. WOW. Talk about perspective! I love how you have grown in the habit of gratitude… I too, understand just how compassion and empathy can be birthed from hardships.
I call those things tender mercies from the Lord.
I really like your thought about thankfulness being something which keeps us from judgement. That’s AWESOME. I’ll try to bear it in mind.
Love the practice of giving thanks daily! We have a 1000 Gifts notebook on our counter that we’ve written in for years (although this is our 4th notebook because we’ve filled so many). Beautiful post and a great reminder for us all!!
I love that story from Corrie ten Boom. Thank you for sharing it, and thank you for giving me a good example of how to pray. It’s too easy to ask, but it takes effort – especially on a bad day – to look and be grateful. Happy Thanksgiving!
It was great to hear Corrie Ten Boom’s story again and so succinctly. I read the book years ago but it’s good to here points that you can focus on. I re-read “The Diary of Anne Frank” recently and was touched by her outlook. She mentioned being thankful for being in hiding and for their carers as other Jews were out on the streets being captured by the Nazis.