Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Last week I wrote about the importance of offering thanks to God. Regularly giving thanks helps us to remember that everything we have is a gift from an incredibly generous Lord. There is nothing in life for which we can claim sole credit. God gives each of us, according to his purpose and will, gifts, talents and skills. Even when we use these blessings wisely and profitably the glory still belongs to the Lord, not to us. Giving thanks on a regular basis will help keep pride at bay.
Giving thanks also helps us curb any tendency we may have to feel sorry for ourselves. If we are constantly comparing our life with the lives of other people we will become disheartened at some point. The remedy is to take up the practice of giving thanks to God for anything that comes to mind, taking nothing for granted. I guarantee you that if you do this you will begin to realize how rich in blessings you really are. The habit of giving thanks to God will give you hope and fill you with joy, no matter what your circumstances are in life.
The apostle, Paul, regularly gave thanks, even under the most trying or dangerous of conditions. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, he instructs us to do the same, for the sake of our spiritual health. He writes, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” (5:18) Paul discovered that in every situation, good and bad alike, if one is attentive to God, there will be something for which to give thanks. By giving thanks in all circumstances he was protecting himself from the temptation of thinking, in times of great difficulty, that God had abandoned him.
Corrie and Betsie ten Boom followed Paul’s advice when they were imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. They had been arrested in Holland, along with their father, for harboring Jewish neighbors in their home. Corrie tells her family’s story in the book, “The Hiding Place.”
The conditions in the concentration camp were horrible: fleas and lice in the dormitory bedding; cockroaches overrunning the latrines; no coats to wear as they were made to stand outdoors for hours, without moving, in freezing temperatures; forced hard labor during the day with only a piece of bread or a potato to eat; and women all around them dying from malnutrition, sickness and the effect of the bitter weather.
Corrie and Betsie turned to their Bible for hope and inspiration. They took to heart Paul’s advice about giving thanks in all circumstances. They found reasons to be thankful, even in such a horrible place as a concentration camp: They gave thanks that they were together, for their Bible which they had smuggled in, for the women who would come to hear the word of God through their clandestine Bible studies – and even for the fleas.
Yes, fleas. The fleas made it possible for Corrie and Betsie to conduct Bible studies in their dormitory without being discovered by the guards. Because their dormitory was so badly infested, the guards only rarely entered it. Who would have thought an infestation of fleas could be a reason for giving thanks to God? But Corrie and Betsie trusted that the Lord had blessings for them even in the most dire of circumstances. Their practice of giving thanks in all things gave them hope and protected them from succumbing to the influence of evil all around them.
The ten Boom sisters are an inspiration for me. I am learning to trust that the Lord has something good for me even in life’s trials and disappointments. I agree with the apostle, Paul: Looking for blessings in all things is a habit that is good for the soul.
If you are still new to the practice of giving thanks, the following list of things for which to give thanks may be of help:
- For all the good things you currently have – look around you, leave nothing out, because it’s all from the Lord.
- For the wonder and beauty of the natural world.
- For God’s answers to your prayers (if you tend to forget how he’s answered your prayers, start keeping an “answered prayer” journal)
- For all that God has done in the past for you (King David made a point of doing this in the psalms he wrote).
- For answers to prayer that are on the way. (I make a point of doing this because I believe the Lord will answer my prayers, although it may not be in the way I want or when I want. Giving thanks for his answers that are forthcoming teaches me to wait with hope and trust that he will always provide what I need.)
- For the blessings God gives you in the midst of life’s difficulties and challenges.
If you still find that thanksgiving just isn’t coming easily to you, then simply make that a prayer and ask Jesus to help you discover why. Be patient as you wait for him to show you.
Next week: Confession as prayer