He knew the next footsteps in the corridor might be those of the guards taking him away to his execution. His only bed was the hard, cold stone floor of the dank, cramped prison cell. Not an hour passed when he was free from the constant irritation of the chains and the pain of the iron manacles cutting into his wrists and legs.
Separated from friends, unjustly accused, brutally treated—if ever a person had a right to complain, it was this man, languishing almost forgotten in a harsh Roman prison. But instead of complaints, his lips rang with words of praise and thanksgiving!
That man was the apostle Paul.
When I think about his story, I find myself shaking my head in disbelief, wondering if I could maintain the attitude of thankfulness that he held under the same condition. The truth? I don’t think I could.
If you look back on some of his earlier teaching when he had been imprisoned on another occasion in Rome, Paul wrote, “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20).
Give thanks in everything–no matter the circumstance.
No matter what.
For Paul, Thanksgiving wasn’t a once-a-year event, but a daily reality that altered his perspective to focus on God, thus making him a joyful person no matter what he faced.
Thanksgiving–the act of giving thanks to God–should be the distinctive marker that sets believers apart from their fellow man. We should also be careful that we do not allow our hearts to become hardened with bitterness which then distances us from God and others.
There are many moments in life where we must choose joy instead of the bitterness, anger, hurt, and disappointment that comes so easily. Choosing joy and thankfulness despite our circumstances is no easy task. It’s hard work. It’s not always wanting to do it, but choosing it despite what our hearts say.
Jesus knows we will have bad days, but even in the bad He wants us to search for the joy and the good in all things–and choose gratefulness. Look around you, life is a gift that only comes once and the pain and discomfort that comes with us reminds us that we are indeed humans, and as humans, we are incapable of doing this–life–alone.
Without God, we are nothing, and every day we each have a choice to either choose joy and thanksgiving or bitterness and despair.
What will you choose?
Story found here.