As we ready our homes and hearts for Thanksgiving, I’ve been pondering thanksgiving-esque Bible verses. One verse in particular has been rolling around in my head. It’s 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (emphasis mine).
While I’ve committed this verse to memory, it only takes a minor setback for me realize this verse cannot just reside in my head, but it also must be imbedded in my heart.
It’s so easy for me to rattle off a list of blessings; those “good things” for which I am thankful. However, when I face trials, heartaches or injustices it is hard for me to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness.
Being thankful to God should be one of the most distinctive, indelible marks of followers of Jesus – almost as visible as an actual tattoo.
But sometimes, regardless of what the calendar says, it’s hard to be thankful. Someone is missing from the Thanksgiving table for the first time. Or finances are strained. Or an unwelcomed diagnosis. Or life.
So, what does it look like to give thanks in every circumstance?
It looks like David, who wrote songs of thanksgiving and praise throughout the Psalms. David gives us a transparent look at his pain and suffering, but also his heart of thankfulness to God.
It looks like Daniel as men were plotting against him, “he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just like he had done before.” (Daniel 6:10)
Paul shows us what giving thanks in all circumstances looks like as he wrote the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 2 Timothy and Philemon from the floor of a prison cell.
It looks like Jesus when He was in the Upper Room with His disciples – knowing agonizing death was only hours away – and He gave thanks as He broke bread with His friends. (Matthew 26:26)
It’s not easy to be thankful in all circumstances. The counterfeit satisfaction of a pity party, complaining, or even giving up can seem so much more appealing.
But in difficult times I have learned that tuning my heart to be thankful can change my entire outlook. I’m grateful for the trials that have brought me to my knees and into closer relationship with Jesus.
It is because of those hardship and heartaches that I can approach trials with thankfulness. I still struggle with complaining as my first response, but I have learned to pray with gratitude even in painful situations: “Jesus, I am thankful that…
“…You love me.” (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:19)
“…You are on Your throne even now. Nothing – not even this hardship – is escaping your gaze, or your power.” (Psalm 11:4)
“… You are weaving conclusions and solutions that I cannot see right now.” (Hebrews 11:1)
“… You have forgiven me.” (Psalm 103:12, Hebrews 10:17, 1 John 1:9)
“… You hold all things in Your hands.” (Psalm 31:15, Acts 7:50, Colossians 1:17)
“… You are never late.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, Ecclesiastes 3:11)
“… You work all things together for the good of those who love You.” (Romans 8:28)
“… You have overcome this world and every circumstance.” (John 16:33)
“… You are not aloof, disconnected or distant, but You are right here with me.” (Joshua 1:9, Matthew 28:20)
“… You are able to do immeasurably more than I can ask for or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20)
“… Nothing I want to have or happen is better than You.” (Psalm 63:3, Psalm 84:10)
“… Even if I don’t receive the outcome I want, I have You and You will never leave me or forsake me.” (Deuteronomy 31:8, Hebrews 13:5)
“… You love me.” (I know I’ve already listed this, but sometimes I just have to keep reminding myself in difficult circumstances that He hasn’t forgotten me and He loves me dearly.)
While circumstances can change like the wind, I am thankful for these unchanging, unwavering truths. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.
We have one day set aside for Thanksgiving, but the life of those who follow Christ should be marked by daily gratitude and thanks – even if, even when and even though trials come.
May your Thanksgiving Day – and every day, no matter the circumstance – be marked by thankfulness.
“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, written by Paul from a prison cell.)