Transformed by gratitude

A friend, who is going through a tough time, has been an inspiration for me. He finds real joy in the things I take for granted.

My mind is often on the troubles of life. His mind is, too. But instead of burying himself in his woes, he finds shafts of light that bring him happiness.

He reminds me of Hannah Whitall Smith who lived a heartbreaking life. Her husband left her, a beloved son died, and a daughter abandoned the Christian faith and married a prominent atheist.

Yet Hannah Whitall Smith grew deeper in her faith in Jesus, writing The God Of All Comfort after all these tragedies in her life.

I return often to a chapter she wrote titled “Thanksgiving versus complaining” where she delves into the benefits of gratitude.

She takes as her springboard 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where the apostle Paul writes: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

As Smith says, many people believe this is an impossible command. How can we be thankful when something terrible has happened to us?

She tells the amazing story of Joseph in the Old Testament. Sold by his brothers into slavery, he endured wrongful imprisonment, virtually forgotten in a jail cell for many years. Then, through God’s power, he interpreted the Egyptian pharaoh’s dreams and was made a great leader.

When Joseph finally met his brothers again, he told them: “Don’t be upset and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.” (Genesis 45:5)

This is an astounding act of forgiveness – and also thanksgiving for good flowing from evil.

Smith contrasts Joseph’s attitude with that of many Christians. The best they can do, she says, is to resign themselves to their circumstances. Being thankful is beyond them.

Yet God is always at work in our circumstances. He showers us with good things – everyday things that we take for granted. Family, friends, food, shelter.

Smith tells a story from a missionary tract of a woman who said she had no money to give to missionaries. A niece suggested she drop a penny in a box for every good thing she found in her life. So, the old woman began looking at her surroundings with new eyes and soon the box was full.

Being grateful for little things can change us – can change me.

The key is to see God at work in our lives – in everything.

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