Paul tells the church to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
In some circumstances, giving thanks is easy. When things go our way, when we receive unexpected blessings, when our hearts are full, we can find ourselves overflowing with gratitude. We recognize the goodness of God, and we rejoice.
In other circumstances, however, giving thanks is difficult. When things don’t go our way, when we face unexpected losses, when our hearts are breaking, we can find ourselves struggling to give thanks. The goodness of God is more difficult to see, and we grieve.
So how do we “give thanks in all circumstances”? How can we respond to difficulty with gratitude?
We can give thanks in all circumstances because God’s goodness remains constant in spite of our changing circumstances. Job understood this, responding to loss with worship (Job 1:20-21). Grief and mourning may be appropriate at times. They often are in this life. Yet even in the most bitter of trials, we can give thanks because our God reigns over all things. He causes all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28). Nothing we face surprises the Lord. Nothing lies outside of his power to redeem. We can give thanks in all circumstances because he remains steadfast and faithful always.
This Thanksgiving, life may be good. All may be well. In that case, give thanks. But if life is difficult, if all is not well, and if God’s goodness is hard to see, give thanks. Trust him, for he is trustworthy. And he is always good.
Frustrated by my failure to perceive
The movement of the invisible one
Whose work, though purposeful, leaves me undone
Till no one save the Savior can relieve
The longing my soul feels to find its home.
I both believe and struggle to believe
That hope endures because of heaven’s Son,
That fears will fade, that victory is won;
And in this moment, I cannot conceive
How this cross leads beyond a catacomb.
I see I am shortsighted, prone to think
No sign of water means no future drink.
Such circumstances hold a hollow taunt.
God is my shepherd. I shall never want.
I want to walk with hope though there be sadness.
I want to be at peace though there be war.
I want to remain sober in the madness.
I want to trust, not knowing what’s in store.
I want my life to testify to blessings
Surpassing the self-pity that I feel.
I want to stand in spite of second-guessings.
I want my love to be alive and real.
I want my joy to show through circumstances,
Joy drawn not from my circumstance or sight.
I want my setbacks to serve your advances,
That, in the darkness, I reflect your light.
All things work for the good, you say.
I do not doubt the truth.
But shall I see the good one day,
Ever detect your better way
When circumstances ever lay
Before my doubtful heart a “may”
Which shakes the faith of youth
With fears I shudder to convey?
My mind is prone to wonder, though
I know you to be wise.
When progress on the road is slow,
When seasons threaten me with snow
Or desert heat, when all is woe –
God, how much further must I go?
My limits are my eyes.
I cannot see how I must grow.
Yet none can know your mind. You see
Past ev’ry fear I face.
So when I lose perspective, be
The peace amidst confusion, he
Whose presence makes the raging sea
A place of rest: tranquility
Of soul because of grace,
Enduring to eternity.
“Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.”