“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” — 1 Thessalonians 5.18)
Everything, you say? Well, that’s apparently what the apostle/missionary/teacher/correspondent Paul taught in that Thessalonian letter that was voted into the canon of the New Testament many centuries ago.
We know that no one has actually given thanks for everything. That means that they would have to have said, “Thank you, Lord, for being able to catch the flu.” “Thank you, Lord, that my child is so disrespectful.” “God, I can’t thank you enough for these three bills left that I can’t pay.” You get the idea.
And yet, that’s exactly what Paul is saying. Elsewhere he asserts: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” — (Philippians 4.11) In other words, “My circumstances don’t matter. I can be rich or poor, sated or starving, a ruler or a pauper; my circumstances don’t dictate whether I’m content or not, which means that they also don’t dictate when I will be thankful, because I’m thankful regardless of what life throws at me.”
This is consistent with the overarching message of Sarah Young’s book, “Jesus Calling.” In this volume of 366 daily devotional readings, Young becomes the voice of Jesus who reminds the reader virtually every day to express thanks. Giving thanks keeps our attention focused on Jesus so that the issues with which the world bombards us from every side don’t discourage us.
Forgive my moment of self-absorption, but I really do think I live with a grateful spirit. And not just for the “biggie” stuff. It’s easy to be thankful when some wonderful surprise falls from the sky and whomps you upside your head. I’m talking about the everyday, easy-to-take-for-granted things. For example, when I’m mowing the lawn in near-90-degree heat and a sudden breeze brings a moment of cooling relief, I’m prompted to whisper a genuine, “Thank you, Lord.” Or when I’m called to make a hospital visit, and I’m able to take three flights of stairs without having to stop to catch my breath, I talk to God and say, “Look at me! Seventy-two years old, and running up the steps like this! Thank you, Lord!” Just this evening, as I was driving home and the left-turn light turned green in time for me to make it — the timing evoked a quiet, “Thank you!”
I’m learning to be thankful in all things, and I believe I’ve made some great progress in recent years. I’ve let go of a heck of lot of “stuff” and chalked it up to God’s being in control. When I understand that God’s the one who guides my time and activities, I can actually utter a “thank you” — even during the trying, exasperating, frustrating, challenging, irritating, (where’s my thesaurus?) times.
When Thanksgiving Day comes, I expect the grace we say over the meal to be the latest installment in my ongoing stream of gratitude.