By Lisa Huddleston
“Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18).
Tucked away in a list of exhortations and blessings to the church of the Thessalonians is this simple little command: “Give thanks in everything.” Which would be all fine and good if “everything” didn’t sometimes include some really rotten things. Does this really mean I should give thanks when my dog dies? When I have the flu? When I get a flat tire? When my bills aren’t paid? When my friends get angry? When there’s conflict at church? When really terrible things come my way? May I humbly say in response, “Heck no!” And “Heck yes!”
No way I’m going to feel thankful for any of those things I listed above. They are not good things. In fact, I’d have to be more than a little crazy to be really thankful for any of them. So what in the world was Paul talking about?
This is the place where I could slip into my “Super Christian” persona and write that even though bad things happen to good people, we can still be thankful that God is always with us and that He can use all things, even the bad ones, to shape us and to build our characters. But, honestly, does that really make you feel thankful about experiencing negative, even at times really evil, things? I didn’t think so. Sometimes rotten things happen, and you just feel rotten.
But then—oh boy, here it comes—you remember Him. Yes, by “Him” I mean Jesus. At least that seems to be how it happens to me. I can be in the middle of some really bad stuff. I can feel angry and selfish and determined not to care about anyone but myself. I can even self-righteously pontificate to anyone who will listen about what I do and don’t deserve. And suddenly, right then and there, I remember Him. One minute I’m ranting and the next I think of Jesus. He suffered truly horrible things. Things that He didn’t deserve, that He didn’t have to experience, and that He could have simply stopped and walked away from. But He chose instead to go through them for me. And that remembrance humbles me and causes me to give thanks—even in the midst of hard things. Because He chose me, I can choose to give thanks despite my feelings and despite my situations. Incredible!
Yes. I hate to admit it, but Paul was right. (Go figure.) Give thanks in everything. In the good times, of course, but even in the bad. He is trustworthy. He knows how we feel. And He has a plan for each one of us—which includes whatever we are going through today.
Give thanks with a grateful heart; Give thanks to the Holy One;
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.
–“Give Thanks,” Henry Smith