Are you able to thank God for the trying situations you face?
Even the really tough ones? Do you “give thanks” in every circumstance of life?
If your answer to these questions is “NO,” please don’t beat yourself up. This practice of “giving thanks” is one of the more challenging aspects of the Christian life — the Christianity 501 graduate course as opposed to the Christianity 101 introductory course.
Our Lord is amazingly redemptive, using even the troubles we face to bring forth His purposes in our life. So how should we respond? We give thanks — even when it hurts.
When Troubles Come
At a recent employee gathering, as we were praying for some members of the DPM staff, someone shared an encouraging word from a Facebook posting. Here it is:
“I asked God, ‘Why are You taking me through troubled water?’ He replied, ‘Because your enemies can’t swim.’”
Sometimes, in the midst of affliction, it is difficult to see the redemptive reason for the trial. Can we trust Him at such times? Can we give thanks — even when it hurts?
Even the Fleas
As I was preparing this letter, a well-known anecdote from the courageous life of the late Corrie ten Boom came strongly to mind.
During the Nazi occupation of Holland during World War II, Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were arrested and imprisoned at the Ravensbruck concentration camp for the crime of harboring and protecting Jews in their home.
As Corrie and Betsie located an open space where they would live and sleep in the squalid campy barracks, Corrie was bitten by a flea. In fact, the entire place was infested with fleas, causing Corrie to wonder how they could possibly endure such conditions.
“Show us how. Show us how,” Betsy said, matter-of-factly. It took Corrie a moment to realize that her sister was praying.
“Corrie!” Betsie then exclaimed excitedly. “He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does. In the Bible this morning.”
The verse they had read before their capture had been 1 Thessalonians 5:18, to “give thanks in all circumstances” — even for the fleas.
As it turned out, the flea infestation kept the guards away, allowing them to minister freely in the place where they were confined.
The Mystery of Giving Thanks
As I said earlier, this counter-intuitive approach to Christianity can be a stretch for us. It certainly does not come naturally — and to me, it is quite a mystery.
Keep in mind that we thank God in the midst of trouble. We don’t have to thank Him for the trouble — that would be masochistic: “Pour it on, Lord — and this time make it really painful!”
But, as in Corrie and Betsie’s situation, we trust Him — and we give thanks in the hard circumstance, looking for His redemptive component in the trials we face.
Not at all easy. But apparently, it’s part of our assignment as believers: “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Hard to do, but absolutely essential — even when it hurts.
A Hard Concept
I remember Derek Prince himself saying that the issue of suffering was a difficult concept for him. But I know he gave thanks to God in the midst of difficulty. I saw it.
Here are his remarks on this theme in a message called, “Commanded to Love,” which was presented at a time when God was dealing with Derek about the place of suffering.
“In the midst of this experience, I was preaching in the state of Virginia to a group of black brothers. At the end of the message, a young black man came up to me and he said, “Brother Prince, would you pray for me?” I said, “What do you want?” He said, “That I may speak to people with the same compassion that you have.”
I looked at him for a moment and then said, “There’s a price to pay,” because I knew I was paying the price. He was silent for a few minutes. Then he said, “I want it anyhow.” So, I prayed for him—and I don’t doubt that God’s hand is on that young man’s life because he said, “I want it anyhow—no matter what it costs.”
Do you feel that way right now? There is a fountain that God sovereignly will open up in you. It’s not under your control. You don’t decide when it will happen. But there are some things that don’t come without suffering. I have always been amazed at Paul’s prayer in Philippians chapter 3: “That I may know Him [Jesus].” That’s wonderful, isn’t it? We all say ‘Amen’ to that. “…and the power of His resurrection.” We all want that as well. But then there is the next verse: “…and the fellowship of His sufferings.”
Many, many times, I have said to the Lord as I have read that verse, “Lord, I don’t know that I can really say that. Do I really want to know the fellowship of your sufferings?” I’m an honest person. I think perhaps that’s one of the basic benefits of God’s dealing with me. I am honest to myself; I am honest to others. And the Lord was very patient with me. He didn’t pressure me. But I have come to see that some things only come by suffering. Suffering does something that nothing else will do. It prepares the soil for that fountain.”
Willing to Give Thanks
Does it encourage you to know Derek struggled with this concept?
It’s no wonder you and I also have a hard time thanking God in the midst of every circumstance. But if this is “the will of God in Christ Jesus,” let’s agree to do it.
Will you pray with me now?
LORD, it is hard for me to embrace this concept of being thankful in all circumstances. It runs counter to every instinct in my personality.
I guess that means this step is just one more aspect of ridding myself of my old nature.
LORD Jesus, I open myself now to Your surpassing plan. Help me move into a position in which I will give thanks in all circumstances and every trial.
I want to know You in the fellowship of Your sufferings — producing in me that fountain of compassion that Derek spoke of in his message.
Help me, LORD. I am willing to make that request, and I do so now, LORD. Amen.
A Life-Changing Step
The words you and I have just prayed have the potential to change our lives forever. This decision runs counter to every tendency toward being self-focused in our lives.
It opens us up to a power and capacity to live on a completely different level.
Please allow all of us here at DPM to partner with you in this great venture. We are happy to provide our encouragement, our prayers, and solid materials that will affirm the decision you have made today.
Feel free to start this process by downloading below a free MP3 of “Commanded to Love,” the teaching from which we took Derek’s quote.
Or listen online now here:
An interesting note: Derek even mentions in it a time of fellowship that he and Lydia had with Corrie ten Boom.
It is our privilege to provide this material to you — just one small way for us to thank you for your prayers, your generosity, and your partnership with us in this ministry. It is a great honor and privilege for us to be linked together with you in these days.
A New Way of Living
Back to our question at the beginning of this letter: Are you able to thank God for the trying situations you face?
I believe you and I have unlocked a truth that will enable us to answer that question more consistently in the affirmative.
Do we have any idea what potential changes could result from that shift of focus and attitude in our lives?
We have set our faces to regard our tribulations in a much more redemptive way.
The “fleas” we encounter may actually yield greater fruit than we would ever imagine. All because we will make sure to “give thanks in every circumstance” — even when it hurts.
All the best,
Materials used by kind permission of Derek Prince Ministries.