1 Thessalonians 5:18 reads, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
This is much easier to say than it is to do. It can be difficult to give thanks when we are overwhelmed with problems. There are conflicts in relationships; conflicts between husbands and wives, conflict between peers, conflicts between employees, conflicts with extended family members, and this list could just go on and on. People struggle with trying to make ends meet; they wonder if they will be able to pay for the lights or the water needed to run their home or if they will have enough food to eat until the next time they are paid. Many wonder if they will ever get a job. People are victims of circumstances. When a tornado rips through a neighborhood, people are left wondering “what can we do now?” People suffer because their bodies fail them; when our bodies fail we suffer with diseases, cancers, long-term injuries, etc. In the midst of life, it can be more than difficult to give thanks.
While the Bible says to give thanks in all circumstances, this command does not begin there. Prior to making this statement, Paul tells his readers in the church to be patient with one another, to show respect for those in leadership, and to encourage those who are weaker in the faith. He reminds them to do good and not evil. He then tells his readers to rejoice, to pray, and to give thanks (vv. 12-18).
The command to give thanks follows a calling to live a godly life and to be devoted to prayer. It is through prayer that we commune with God. It is through patience and humility that we encourage others in the faith and bear with them through their weaknesses.
Our world is full of evil, pain, and suffering, but as we share goodness with others through patience, then our hearts are prepared to hear from God when we pray. When we pray, God aligns our will with his will through the convictions of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, when we pray, God often reminds us of the importance of having an eternal perspective. When our lives seem out of control, God is still in control of the grand scheme of things. God continues to allow the earth to move around the sun; he continues to send rain on the land in a way that it produces good vegetation. God keeps things going.
This season has been an especially difficult one for me. In early August I fell and broke one of the carpal bones in my left hand. This made it very difficult to hold my children, type on the computer, drive, cook, and mow the lawn. About 2 weeks after having my cast put on, I pinched a nerve in my lower back that resulted in a very serious case of sciatica. The pain was so bad that I could not walk. After a trip to the ER, and numerous chiropractic appointments, I am still on a long road to recovery. In addition to health concerns for myself, my mother has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. It would be easy at this point to focus on the negative things that surround me….in fact, sometimes I do just that. It would be easy to throw my hands up and say “I quit!!” or “I give up!!!,” but that is not how God wants me to behave. God desires that I continue to pray in these circumstances and that I continue to be thankful for both the good things and the bad things that God directly brings into or allows to come into my life.
This is much easier said than done, but here are a few tips that have helped me to be thankful in spite of myself. I hope these tips will also be helpful to you.
- Remember that no person’s life is perfect or without trials.
- Remember that God can use bad/negative circumstances to bring about good results.
- Remember that God is reigning from his throne and that he is in control of all he allows on earth.
- Remember that things will get better. Wounds heal, so do hearts, but it is important not to rush things too much.
- Remember that the healing process takes time. It is acceptable to be angry, sad, or joyful in the midst of your circumstances. In fact, it is healthy to express your emotions and feelings to God and to those around you.
- Remember that God is with you in the midst of your suffering and that he walks through the process of healing alongside of you.
This week, what good things in your life do you need to be thankful for? What painful things do you need to be thankful for? How can your attitude towards others and your heart towards God serve as a light for God’s Kingdom??