“…give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Let’s face it; it’s easier to give thanks in certain circumstances than others. But God’s Word says we are to give thanks in all of them. What Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 has a tendency to strike us the same way as when James writes, “Count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). The call to obey is clear, but obedience to that call is easier said than done. In fact, without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, it’s impossible.
As part of our thanksgiving service at church, I’ve had the opportunity to hear people share testimonies of their thankfulness for God’s work in their lives. In many instances these testimonies were given by people or families dealing with difficult and uncertain circumstances related to an illness and even death. But in spite of that, they testify that although they may not know what today holds, they are quite sure of what the future does. I always leave this service realizing the problems I have aren’t really problems at all. I also leave encouraged that it is God who authors our circumstances and whether those circumstances have us on a mountaintop or in a valley, He is there with us.
“…give thanks in all circumstances” When we encounter passages such as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and James 1:2, it’s tempting to apply our own meanings or put boundaries around these passages. Paul’s teaching to those in the church at Thessalonica was not that they were to give thanks for everything that happens, but to be thankful that God is working to bring good out of whatever does (Romans 8:28).
It’s the same with us. As a child of God, this life is about preparation for the next; it’s about living with an eye on eternity, being made more like Christ, realizing that whatever happens here cannot compare to the promise of heaven, “the glory that is to be revealed” (Romans 8:18). I believe those who suffer realize this more fully. This has been the testimonies of these families. And I know that it’s all made possible because of God. God doesn’t put boundaries around these passages because they are to be understood in light of who He is. A greater understanding of who He is will help us be able to give thanks in all circumstances, even the difficult ones.
When you give thanks during this thanksgiving season, remember how much you truly have to be thankful for: your health, your family, your friends, your church, your job and much more. But more than anything be thankful for what God has done for you in Christ, be thankful that He walks beside you each day. And be thankful for the glorious promise of what is yet to come.
Lord, your Word tells us to give thanks in all circumstances, not just the good ones. It also tells us to rejoice always and to pray continually. Lord this is difficult when we suffer, so we ask for your Holy Spirit to help us. God, all your purposes are good and we know that this world is not our home. Let our knowing what awaits us be an encouragement for today. But until that time, in good times and bad, help us to be thankful in all things, knowing that you are making us more like your Son and enabling us to live for your glory. Amen!
Modified from original post November 2012