How does someone keep their heart from hardening when bad things happen? They embrace the daily practice of giving thanks.
I don’t know all the answers. However, I have seen thankfulness as a significant thread in the lives of many of my spiritual mentors. They all learned the benefits of living a life of intentional thankfulness.
I worked in a refugee camp along the Thai/Cambodian border in 1984. The very last scene of the award-winning movie, ‘The Killing Fields’, was filmed in the camp during my time there. Bamboo huts, open sewage, dirt floors, and a bland and insufficient diet marked the daily life of these refugees. Many single women slept in pits under their huts to hide from drunken Thai soldiers who patrolled the camp at night. Crime and corruption were rampant. The large majority of refugees lived in horrid conditions.
In this dark place, the Christian church grew at an incredible rate. Despite the persecution and ridicule that new converts faced from their Buddhist community, they eagerly shared the good news. The darkness was a perfect backdrop for the light of Jesus that shone through their example. They rejoiced in Christ, finding joy in the smallest of things. Their bright smiles radiated the love of God.
I was privileged to become friends with a young man who acted as my translator and assistant. Duan had accepted the Lord about a year before I arrived in the camp. His love for Christ was infectious, and his ready laugh filled our little office. Every day, he would come to work and share with me the beautiful things God was doing in his life. He’d rejoice over an extra half of an egg for dinner; he’d give thanks as he pointed to a new patch on his worn jeans, expertly repaired by an older sister in Christ. “Look, Katherine, you can hardly notice it is there!”
I grieved with him when a sweet Christian girl he worked with didn’t return his affection. Even as his broken heart healed, his joy remained. Over the months we worked together, his trust in me grew, and Duan shared some of the horrors he faced under the cruel reign of the Khmer Rouge. While I saw the pain in his eyes as he spoke of his grievous loss of family, home, and country, he never failed to express his gratitude to the One who preserved his life.
Many of Duan’s neighbours came to know Christ, drawn in by his compassionate and hope-filled heart. What was his secret? I pondered this question years later when I experienced a dark season in my life, and I believe God gave me some insight.
Duan embraced the daily discipline of remaining intentionally thankful. Many of his fellow believers in the camp embraced the same heart value.
They were thankful the Lord had set them free from sin. They were thankful that the Lord had delivered them from their enemies, and they were thankful each morning for their small bowl of rice and vegetables. Despite ongoing mental pain and grief, they still rejoiced. They knew that they would slip into despair and depression if they focused on anything else but all that Christ had done for them. They chose to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus. One day, as I thought about their attitude, I realized these brothers and sisters in Christ practised thanks-living. They didn’t just wait for a special day to give thanks; they lived thanks.
A person with a thanks-living lifestyle intentionally searches for the blessings in life as part of their daily routine. Thanks-living is an acquired skill learned through practice, determined thought, and repetition. They might falter and want to give up. But as they press in, it becomes natural to see God’s blessings even in the darkest circumstances. Eventually, it’s not foreign or strained; it’s as natural as breathing.
As children, we learn to brush our teeth daily to protect our teeth from decay and disease. If you learn the art of daily thanks-living, you’ll be guarding your heart against hardness; without thanks-living, you open yourself to spiritual decay.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Are you needing Thanksgiving quotes? Go to our Daily Christian Quote Website and use the search engine or the tags/subject page to find quotes on thanksgiving, gratefulness, thanks, etc.
All Bible references, unless indicated, are from the NASB 1995 edition.
©2021 Katherine Walden