Over the last few days I have found myself feeling convicted about the importance of giving thanks in all circumstances, not just those that seem easy to be thankful for. I am familiar with the biblical instruction to give thanks even in times when it does not seem like the situation is one for which I should be thankful, as I am sure you are. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, for example, Paul writes that we should, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (ESV). James writes, immediately after his introduction, that we should “count it all joy” when we “meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2, ESV).
When I am healthy, the weather is nice, all the bills are paid (and there is still money in the bank), and my children are behaving it is easy to give thanks. Not so easy is giving thanks when there is a health issue, it pouring down rain again, there is too much month left and not enough money, or the kids are driving me crazy. I’m simplifying, of course, but I think you get the idea: I tend to be far more thankful when my life seems to be on cruise control.
Paul, of course, had plenty of occasions to be less than thankful, yet he was able to write, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11, ESV). I am sure that I could not honestly write that. I can get irritable if the temperature in the house is warmer than I like it. Pretty pathetic, huh? I know. I am not proud of it, either.
Last week I was almost bursting with excitement and thanksgiving because Sunshine Bible Academy received a very large and unexpected gift for our building fund. I could not wait to tell everyone and to lead a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord. Why don’t I have the same attitude of thankfulness when money is tight and I am not sure whether or not there will be enough to cover all the bills? Today my brother-in-law begins chemotherapy for esophageal cancer. It is a lot easier to wonder why God allowed that to happen to him a year after he got married than it is to give thanks that the doctors were able to catch it before it spread, and that with today’s medical advancements the doctors feel confident that it can be treated and, eventually, removed. My step-nephew is about to be redeployed to Afghanistan. It is easier to worry about his safety than it is to give thanks for bringing him home safely from his first deployment and for allowing him to be home for the birth of his daughter.
These are just a few examples. I could probably go on and on, and I imagine you could, too. Because we live in world full of fallen people there will be sickness, disease, war and famine. There will be unemployment, debt and decay. There will be murder, drugs, rape and abuse. I am not making light of it or excusing it, simply acknowledging that it exists, and will continue to do so. And I am not suggesting that we have to be thankful for those things, nor do I think Paul and James would suggest that we should. But they would both agree that even in the midst of such circumstances we should still be giving thanks.