Give Thanks in All Things
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)
Give thanks in all circumstances. That's a real challenge, isn't it?
Some circumstances lend themselves to gratitude. A new baby is born in the family. After weeks of searching, one finally gets hired for a great job. The Cubs win the World Series after 108 years.
Other circumstances make giving thanks seem pretty hard. A week in the hospital with a 5 mm kidney stone and a major infection. (Man am I ever glad that's over!) A loved one is in ICU fighting for their life in a battle with COVID-19. Weeks and weeks of staying home takes its toll, leaving loneliness and isolation and depression to settle in.
There is a very important word we must not miss in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. The verse says to "give thanks in all circumstances." The important word is in. In the midst of. While going through. It is really, really important that the verse does not say to "give thanks for all circumstances." Some circumstances are harsh and cruel. There is no reason to give thanks for them. I do not thank God for COVID. I do not thank God for the way disagreement has become division in our nation.
But in the midst of all circumstances, I can give thanks to God for His sustaining Presence and grace. In all circumstances, I can thank God for answering prayer. While going through all circumstances I can have a heart of gratitude that I am not alone because Jesus is with me. No matter the circumstances I can give thanks for the forgiveness and redemption won by Christ on the Cross.
For the record, this pandemic stinks. 2020 has not exactly been a stellar year for which we all enthusiastically give thanks to God. The world is fallen. There is much that is discouraging and maddening. And yet Jesus remains at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us!
Today, I am grateful for God's healing both through and beyond the powerful antibiotics I received to battle the raging infection that landed me in the hospital for six days. I am grateful for the nurses and techs and doctors who were simply amazing in their care for me. I thank God the kidney stone is pulverized and passing in small pieces, and without much pain. I am thankful for a congregation and a whole network of friends who have prayed for me diligently and passionately the past two weeks. I am grateful for my dear wife who has shepherded me through all of it. I am not thankful for the kidney stone. I am thankful for God's grace and ministry through it all.
Whatever circumstances you find yourself in this week, I hope you can look to Jesus and find gratitude for all the ways He is ministering in your life. "For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."