Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Two weeks ago, my daughters learned this verse for their church clubs program. So, as we memorized it together, we talked about what it meant. We began to discuss what circumstances we could be thankful for, but I realized then that the verse does not say for. It says in.
Imagine what the verse would be instructing if it said, “Give thanks for all circumstances.” Really? I should be thankful for being victimized as a child? I need to give thanks for losing my eldest child to miscarriage ten years ago this month?
Oh, my goodness! A god who would expect obedience to such a command would be cruel beyond description.
But the verse says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.”
And that one tiny word makes all the difference. That command is God saying, “Life is horribly hard at times – remember how Jesus reminded you that it would be? So it’s okay to mourn your losses. But do not despair in them. For I am with you, I love you, and I’m ultimately in control, even when you can’t see me. In asking you to be thankful in all situations, I’m asking you to look for me in the midst of whatever is happening.”
So, of course, I don’t give thanks that I was hurt as a little girl. I grieve that it happened and long to know what I’d be like now if it hadn’t. But I can choose to say, “God, thank you for getting me through it. Yes, the fallout has been deep and far-reaching, but you have sustained me and provided means of healing. And now you’re even using it for good!”
Similarly, I’m not thankful that my daughter died. I miss her and am desperately sad some days that I don’t know her as a nine-year old. But being thankful in my circumstance means saying, “Thank you for giving her to me for even a short time, God. I know you’re for caring for her in eternity now. And thank you for the blessings of my other children.”
Likewise, in the difficulties I face right now – whether big or small – I have to decide how I will respond. Being thankful in hard circumstances is not automatic; nor is it easy. But it is possible in Christ, who – according to Philippians 4:13 – gives me strength to do anything within his will. If I believe that, I’ll choose to obey the command of 1 Thessalonians 5.