Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Photo: "Grace" by Eric Enstrom, 1918Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, so I have set apart this whole week for devotions on gratitude. Today, I want to consider a verse from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (5:18).

The Greek original of this verse calls us to give thanks “in everything” (en panti). This does not mean that we must give thanks for everything, as if everything, including evil, was from God. It does mean that even in the midst of suffering, even when we experience injustice, even when life isn’t working out as we wish, we can and should give thanks. We thank God for his good gifts. We thank him for being present with us in hard times. We thank him for using life’s struggles to draw us closer to him and make us more like him. We thank God that nothing happens outside of his wise plan for history and for our lives.

Why should we thank God? 1 Thessalonians 5:18 reveals that “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Giving thanks to God is a matter of obedience. We do it because God wants us to.

But that’s not the whole story. We thank God, not only because it is right to do so, but also because, through thanksgiving, we receive even more blessings. When we thank God, we remember all that he has done for us and feel glad. In thanksgiving, we find security and peace of mind. Giving thanks opens our hearts to trust God more, so that we might be ready for new blessings. In gratitude, we savor life’s goodness and, therefore, live to the fullest.

Tomorrow, my American readers will sit down to a fine dinner of turkey and all the trimmings. If we’re really going to enjoy this meal rather than just wolfing it down, we need to take time to revel in each flavor and to share our delight with others. Gratitude is just like this. It’s stopping to enjoy, to taste, to delight in the goodness of life. And it’s sharing our joy with the Giver of all good gifts as well as with our neighbors.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

How have you been able to thank God in the midst of difficult times?

For what are you most thankful today?

How does expressing thanks help you to savor life?

PRAYER:

Dear Lord, first of all, I must confess that I don’t always obey this verse. I am thankful at times, but surely not in all circumstances. When life is hard, when work is scary and disappointing, I must admit that it’s difficult for me to give you thanks. In retrospect, gratitude comes easily. But, in the moment of suffering or sadness or fear or disappointment, I often have a hard time giving thanks. Forgive me, Lord.

Help me to do what this verse encourages. May I be truly thankful in every situation. By your Spirit, remind me of your goodness when I’m hurting or afraid. Make your presence known to me, Lord, so that I might offer you thanks.

In this season of thanksgiving, may I join the chorus of those offering thanks to you. For all you have given me and, most of all, for your love and grace in Jesus Christ, I thank you. Amen.

 

An earlier version of this devotion appeared at The High Calling. It is used with permission under a Creative Commons license.
Image Credit: “Grace1918photographEnstrom” by Eric Enstrom – Photograph by Eric Enstrom published in the United States in 1918 (and therefore public domain).. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
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