How To Give Thanks in Everything

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). There are many good reasons to live in gratitude, but none greater than the words at the center of this verse: “this is the will of God.” Our loving God, who knows us intimately and provides for us perfectly, desires that we be grateful people. As good as this reason is, when difficulty, disease, disaster, or death strike, the first part of the verse – “in everything” – can prove to be quite a challenge. How can we be grateful in everything?

It should be noted that the text reads “in everything,” not “for everything.” While we may find that time grants us perspective regarding certain challenges, perhaps even allowing us to see God’s hand at work in them, there are certain things in life for which we may never be grateful. God’s will is not for us to give thanks for everything that happens, but to maintain a grateful disposition in and sometimes in spite of what happens. So the question isn’t, “How can we see good in each experience?”, but rather, “How can we see the light of God’s blessing in the midst of terrible darkness?” And to answer that question, I’d like to give you three things to think about to develop a baseline of gratitude.

The first thing that I would like for you to reflect on is the Bible. Psalm 119 is a beautiful hymn consisting of 176 verses of poetic praise to God regarding the Bible. And yet, when you pause to think about when this hymn was written, the hymn writer is giving praise for only the first five books of the Bible and perhaps the recorded history in Joshua, Judges, and Ruth. We should be incredibly grateful that God has “provided something better for us” than the Psalmist (Hebrews 11:40), namely, “the faith that was once for all delivered” (Jude 1:3 ESV).

The second thing that ought to make us pause in gratitude is the brotherhood. When Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, I tend to think that he was certain that Israel would no longer “go limping between two different opinions,” but choose to serve God (1 Kings 18:21). When they didn’t but instead Jezebel sought to kill him, “he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life,” wishing he were dead and feeling very alone (1 Kings 19:2-4, 10). The Lord’s response was that he wasn’t in fact alone, but there were “seven thousand” others (1 Kings 19:18). Though there are never as many serving God as there should be, we are never alone when we do so. At this very moment, around the world, there are hundreds of thousands of people serving God alongside of us. No wonder Peter reminded us, “love the brotherhood” even as we “fear God” (1 Peter 2:17).

A third thing to be thankful for “in everything” would be each breath. We can so easily fall pray to the devil’s interpretation of our existence instead of God’s. Take for instance when a baby dies. Have you ever known a parent to be consoled when such a thing happens by people who say, “Well, at least that child will never know the sickness, pain, and suffering of life!” This makes it seem as though we do our children a disservice by having them. Life is not a curse; it is a tremendous opportunity to cultivate a relationship with God that will stretch out into eternity and to help others do the same! While it is comforting to know that a departed child is safe in the arms of Jesus, it’s inspiring to reflect on the special blessing of being led “in triumph in Christ” and knowing that “through us” God “diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place” (2 Corinthains 2:14).
 
As I think about the Bible, the brotherhood, and each breath I take, I can’t help but echo Paul’s thought in that last verse: “thanks be to God”! My hope and prayer is that these three thoughts will help you develop a baseline of gratitude that will continue to grow with time and reflection. To borrow from the hymn, “Count your blessings… it will surprise you what the Lord hath done”!
-Patrick Swayne  
patrick@tftw.org

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