“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
– 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18
Over the summer I had a couple of encounters with people who demonstrated a habit or discipline of thanksgiving. Within the span of a week, there were two parallel experiences with very different people that pointed to the same truth.
After a few days of camping on Vancouver Island, Danny and I spent some time visiting a couple of friends at their home near Departure Bay. They have two young children, and when the food for dinner was ready, we all stood in the kitchen together to have a moment of prayer.
This moment of prayer included our friend Kathryn asking their son, “Josiah, what are you thankful to God for today?” Josiah then proceeded to answer the question, and his little sister was then asked the same.
Later on that week, I was attending the funeral of a friend whose mother had passed away. And at the funeral I heard her share that every night at bedtime, she would ask her mom, “Mom, what are you thankful to God for today?”
Immediately I thought of Josiah. Just days apart, I heard a young mom asking her child a question about thankfulness, and then later a grown-up daughter sharing how—every day—she would ask her elderly mom the same question.
From birth to death, from our first breath all the way up until our last, our heart-call—what we were made for—is to live in the goodness of God and to give thanks for His blessings.
Paul tasked the Thessalonians with operating as a people who don’t cause division or disruption, who encourage rather than tear down, who help those who are struggling, who exercise patience. He urged them to refrain from fighting fire with fire, to strive to do good rather than spur on wrong.
“Rejoice always,” he said. And this may sound idealistic, but it’s a lot easier to do when you’ve heeded his first few instructions. If our minds are oriented towards the good, our hearts will be more naturally inclined towards worship (and vise-versa).
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
It is God’s will for us that we exist, we live, we operate in a posture that is worshipful, that is grateful, that is full of thanksgiving.
Can we do this?
I think we can all agree on how discouraging it has been to see so much hatred, vitriol, division, and anger surging out of this Covid crisis. There are many opportunities to argue, to see things differently, to get upset. And the further we go into this season, the hotter the temperature gets and the greater the divisions become.
But as followers of Christ, what is God’s will for us in this season? Can we still give thanks in all circumstances? Rather than growing discouraged or angry, can we find ways to rejoice in what God has already done? To pray continually that His goodness would fill this earth and people would come to know Him? To give thanks for how good He has been to us, and then to spread His goodness as best as we can?
This does not mean that our pain or difficulties go away—not at all. Paul’s never did, and neither will ours. But it does mean that we can find within us the strength to look outside of our circumstances and see the larger story at work. We can yet rejoice and be grateful, even through tears and heartache.
So let’s go back to that initial question. Insert your name in the blank and answer: “_______, what are you thankful to God for today?”
And may our hearts overflow with gratitude in all seasons of life.
Lord, inspire me to be thankful in all circumstances.
I want to choose praise even in the difficulties of my life.
Spirit, help me to see that a thankful heart paves the way for blessing,
and that the enemy is defeated when I praise You.
Father, I want to glorify You and advance Your Kingdom through my praises.
Help me to walk in Your peace,
listen carefully to You,
and live expectantly.