Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsy were sent to a German concentration camp during World War II for hiding and smuggling Jews. They were taken to Ravenbruck and faced some pretty inhumane conditions. Women were packed in their barracks stacked on three high bunk beds where they used rotten hay for cushion. The conditions were so unsanitary that it was overrun with lice. Betsy reminded Corrie to be thankful in all circumstances, but Corrie said she’d never be thankful for the life. Her tune changed not long after when her tormentors refused to come in their barracks because of the lice. This provided them the opportunity to pray, read the Bible and share the Gospel. Corrie found a way to be thankful even for lice.
I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus” (GNT). This trifecta seems impossible at times, especially when we’ve been given life shattering news. However, God isn’t asking us to be thankful for all circumstances. It’s to be thankful in all circumstances. Thankfulness is always possible. It just matters how we look at our circumstances. A thankful heart looks for the goodness of God despite what the current outlook is. It clears all the confusion and the distractions when we turn our focus to God. He is the only one who can give us strength and grace in every circumstance. That is what allows us to pray at all times.
Finally, don’t confuse happiness with joy. Happiness is dependent on your circumstances, joy is not. Happiness is a reaction while joy is a lifestyle born from possessing inner peace that passes all understanding. Joy is your strength to endure whatever you face (Nehemiah 8:10). It is critical in this life and why the author mentioned it first. If you lose your joy, you’ve lost your strength to pray and be thankful because you’ve quit trusting in God. Joy trusts God even when the outcome is unsure and looks unfavorable. God holds your life in His hands. No matter what you face, it will never separate you from His love (Romans 8:38). Joy gives us an eternal perspective in temporary bodies. Because of it, we can keep our eyes on Jesus, pray at all times and find a way to be thankful.