“Give thanks on all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” (1 Thess. 5:18).
I’m writing this in October of 2020. We don’t know for certain how the Thanksgiving holiday will be managed and enjoyed this year. The pandemic has changed everything, especially our proximity to people. Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday in our culture, about which there is little controversy (except occasional quibbles about carbs and tofu). Families cherish memories of trips, food, visiting and napping through the last quarter of a ball game. This year will probably not be the same.
We should remember that gratitude is not limited to a holiday, a prayer, a song or a card sent or received. God’s people have the capacity and can develop the discipline of giving thanks “in all circumstances.”
Sometimes gratitude is easy and almost spontaneous. At the birth of a healthy child to good parents; when two people who love the Lord and love each other join in marriage; when a penitent believer is born again in baptism; when an ill loved one has full recovery. Sometimes being thankful to God is easy.
There are other times. When a teenage boy watches his father die suddenly. When a twenty-two year old young man witnesses his wife die of cancer. When a grandson is sent to prison. When a church divides. When a marriage slides off track.
Our God is a God of hard times. He has always been there for His people. The benefits of the death of Christ and the victory of His resurrection is never diminished by our difficulties. There is a peace that passes understanding. We have that through Christ, and it enables us to hold on to gratitude even when it seems there is nothing immediate to be thankful for. Spiritual growth continued prepares us for what may be ahead that we cannot see.
If we will form good habits of gratitude as a function of our spiritual growth, we will not abandon gratitude when we are storm tossed. Access to God in prayer is never cut off because of our trials. He loves us. People love us. There is safe harbor. In fact, remaining grateful to God for the good things is part of what enables us to get beyond present troubles.
DON’T GIVE UP BEING THANKFUL, no matter what.
I doubt I will ever forget what Matthew Henry said he prayed, after being robbed:
I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.