When Joshua Kaufman survived Dachau, one of Hitler’s brutal concentration camps, he had only one wish. He wanted the chance to thank one of the US Army soldiers who liberated him. It would be seventy years before that moment came.
Joshua was waiting as 89-year-old Daniel Gillespie made his way across the street. The solider who had entered Dachau as a strong, young man to set Joshua free moved slowly, carefully navigating a walker across the pavement. When the two men drew close, Joshua saluted Daniel before taking his hand, kissing it, and then kissing him on the cheek.
Joshua’s voice was choked with emotion as he addressed the man who had liberated him so long ago.
“I didn’t have the power to kiss your feet,” he said. “I was too weak. I will do it now.”
Joshua carefully moved Daniel’s walker to the side so that he could drop to his knees and kiss the top of Daniel’s shoes.
Gratitude is a tremendous force. It releases the power of God in our lives to reframe even our deepest wounds in the grace of Christ. What is more, practicing thankfulness is God’s will for us. Listen to the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Gratitude doesn’t always come naturally, especially during difficult times. It is far easier to grumble, complain and focus on all that has gone wrong than to deliberately choose to be thankful for the good in our lives. That is why we need to approach gratitude as a discipline, something we go ahead and do because it is good for us, and because God told us to do it!
Do you practice gratitude? If not, begin today. Start with the small things, whatever is nearest — the food you have to eat, the ability to take your next breath — and go from there. As the words of the old hymn say, “Count your blessings. Name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done!”
As you do, you will find that the good in your life shines brighter than ever before and greater peace will follow. The enemy of our souls would keep us in a concentration camp of bitterness if we focus on what we do not have. But the Cross of Christ cries out to all who have ears to hear: He has won the victory! And what we do have in that victory is immeasurable.
Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. (Psalm 100 NLT)