Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.— 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
For years I have wrestled, off and on, with this verse. It didn’t make sense to me to give thanks in all circumstances, but that being said, this verse and meditations about this verse kept cropping up in my readings all week so I need to pay attention.
Being grateful and offering thanksgiving is a very important discipline for our spiritual life, so Practicing Gratitude (Thanksgiving) is now an element in our Trinity Way of Life. Last year in November, I wrote: “There must be a reason why Paul would tell the church to give thanks in all circumstances. Does God need our thanks? I don’t know. Probably not, but we need to thank God. It helps us remember who we are and who God is. Thanksgiving helps us remember that all things are gifts from God. Giving thanks can change our mood from grumpy, from being self-absorbed, from self-pity to one of being grateful. Giving thanks to God helps us to rejoice always.” ~ Soul Food, November 2013
I still believe all of that is true but there are times when things are down-right evil – 9/11, Columbine, Sandy Hook, theater shooting, kidnapping of girls in a foreign country, genocide, etc., etc., etc. How do we thank God then? Then there are the smaller things, not necessarily evil – lost jobs, relationship difficulties, serious illness, not so serious illness, lost ring, stubbed toe, etc., etc. Then? In all things? How? Why? Because, in all things, giving thanks is God’s will for us, Paul says. And then, he models it.
Please notice, Paul did not say that we had to thank God FOR all things but IN all things. Thanking God in the midst of all things, even evil things, keeps us grateful, knowing that the Creator says he will work all things out for good if we are called for his purpose (Romans 8:28). And we are. But there’s more. What if the evil one cannot work in these situations when we turn what could be distrust of God into praise for what God will do. The evil one would not like us to give this “Hands off” message. Brad Huebert – GO WITH THE FLOW, which is a book on prayer, says “giving God thanks dispels darkness, begins the healing process, and clears the path for a new day.” I believe offering our thanksgiving allows God to work in our situations, whatever they are. Is giving thanks in all things hard? Yes. But then, that’s why we need the practice.
“I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord, among the people; I will sing praises to Thee among the nations.
For Thy steadfast love is great, is great to the heavens, and Thy faithfulness, Thy faithfulness to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the Heavens. Let Thy glory be over all the earth.”
~ “Be Exalted,”—Bret Chambers, based on Psalm 57