Luke 17:11-19
I Thessalonians 5:14-18

In Making Grateful Kids, psychologist Jeffey Froh summarizes his team’s research on the benefits of gratitude among adolescents:

We’ve found that grateful young adolescents (ages 11-13), compared to their less grateful counterparts, are happier; are more optimistic; have better social support from friends and family; are more satisfied with their school, family, community, friends, and themselves; and give more emotional support to others. They’re also physically healthier and report fewer physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, and runny noses. We’ve also found that grateful teens (ages 14-19), compared to less grateful teens, are more satisfied with their lives, use their strengths to better their community, are more engaged in their schoolwork and hobbies, have higher grades, and are less envious, depressed, and materialistic. 1

I have two stories to tell about giving thanks in everything.

The barracks where Corrie ten Boom and her sister, Betsy, were kept in the Nazi concentration camp, Ravensbruck, were terribly overcrowded and flea-infested. They had been able to miraculously smuggle a Bible into the camp, and in that Bible they had read that in all things they were to give thanks and that God can use anything for good. Betsy decided that this meant thanking God for the fleas. This was too much for Corrie, who said she could do no such thing. Betsy insisted, so Corrie gave in and prayed, thanking God even for fleas. Over the next several months a wonderful, but curious, thing happened: They found that the guards never entered their barracks. This meant that the women were not assaulted. It also meant that they were able to do the unthinkable, which was to hold open Bible studies and prayer meetings in the heart of a Nazi concentration camp. Through this, countless numbers of women came to faith in Christ. Only at the end did they discover why the guards had left them alone and would not enter into their barracks: It was because of the fleas.

A few years back, Ashland Theological Seminary had a Professor by the name of Dr. Munson. One morning, he was the speaker in chapel. His only daughter had recently died of cancer. It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and he took as his topic, Paul’s words to the Thessalonians “give thanks in everything” (5:18). In the midst of his message, Dr. Munson said:

I don’t give God thanks for the cancer. But I am here to tell you that I give God thanks because He has been with us in the midst of the cancer. I give God thanks because my daughter believed in Jesus as her Savior and I give God thanks for the faith He has given me and my wife and I give God thanks for the hope of all of us being reunited again.

Two-time Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington is best known for his roles in The Preacher’s Wife, Remember the Titans, and Training Day. But the Hollywood A-lister has sounded more like a pastor when has spoken at recent events. Washington has publicly stated that he reads his Bible every day and that he strives to consistently get up and speak of what God has done for him. At a November 2015 church banquet he urged his listeners to live in a constant attitude of gratitude for God’s goodness:

Give thanks for blessings every day; every day. Embrace gratitude; encourage others. It is impossible to be grateful and hateful at the same time. I pray that you put your slippers way under your bed at night, so that when you wake in the morning you have to start on your knees to find them. And while you’re down there, say “thank you.” 2

1 Froh Jeffrey. Making Grateful Kids [West Conshohocken, Pa: Templeton Press, © 2015]

2 Jeannie Law, “Denzel Washington: God Has ‘Faith in Me,'”
Christian Post (11-12-15)