Strength for Tough Times – Being Grateful to God

By Maria Kneas
(from her book, Strength for Tough Times, Lighthouse Trails, 2010)

We need to develop the habit of being grateful for who God is and what He has already done for us. It is easy to take things for granted. For example, you are reading this book. Have you thanked God for the fact that you are able to see, and you know how to read?

If we look for things to thank God for, we will find more and more reasons to be grateful. And if we look for things to complain about, we will find more and more reasons to complain.

When the Israelites came out of Egypt and went to the Promised Land, they kept complaining. They got bored with eating manna every day and wanted to eat something more flavorful (with garlic and leeks). So they complained about the miraculous food that God provided. They complained when they had no water. God miraculously supplied water for them, but we have no record that they were grateful for it.

And what was the end of the matter? That generation died in the wilderness because they refused to enter the Promised Land when God told them to. They didn’t trust God to deal with the giants there.

This is an example of how a lack of gratitude can result in a lack of trusting God. And that can lead to a lack of obedience (i.e., rebellion against God).

Compare this with the attitude of King Jehoshaphat. When he and his people were threatened by a huge army, Jehoshaphat prayed:

O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee. (2 Chronicles 20:12)

And God came through for them. He miraculously delivered them from their enemies.

We can choose to develop the habit of thanking God. We can look for things to thank Him for. We can thank God and praise Him even when we don’t feel like it.

We can deliberately choose to be grateful, and we can ask God to give us a grateful heart. The Apostle Paul exhorted us to have that kind of attitude when he said:

Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy were sent to a Nazi concentration camp because their family hid Jews during World War II. Betsy died in that camp, but Corrie was released.1 After the war, Corrie traveled the world, telling people about God’s love. She knew first-hand how difficult life can be, when she said:

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.2

Betsy ten Boom was able to love the Nazis and pray for their salvation even while surrounded by the horrors of a death camp. Instead of seeing the prison guards as being monsters, she saw them as being trapped and tormented. She saw their need for God’s love and forgiveness. She prayed for their salvation, and by her example she led other prisoners to do the same.

Betsy reminds me of Stephen, who was the first Christian martyr. While he was being stoned by an angry mob, he prayed for his persecutors:

And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:60)

At first Corrie hated the Nazis, but eventually she was able to forgive them. After the war she heard that Jan Vogel, the man who had betrayed her family, was in prison and was to be executed. She wrote to him, telling him that she forgave him, and telling him about the love of Jesus Christ. Shortly before he was executed, Jan Vogel wrote back to Corrie, telling her that he had become a Christian.

When Corrie was ministering in Germany, a man came up to her after the service. He had been a prison guard in Ravensbruck, the death camp where Betsy died. He held out his hand to Corrie, asking if she forgave him. At first, Corrie was overwhelmed by memories from the prison camp, and she froze. Then she asked God to help her love this man. She forced herself to put out her hand to take his. When they held hands, God’s love flooded Corrie’s heart, and she and her former tormenter embraced one another as fellow children of God.

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:5)

Corrie’s love wasn’t strong enough to love that prison guard, but God’s love was. God filled Corrie’s heart with His love for that man, and broke down the barrier between them.

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us. (Ephesians 2:14)

(from Strength for Tough Times, Lighthouse Trails, 2010)

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