In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the Apostle Paul admonishes us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”. Initially, I had quite a bit of trouble with this passage.
Expressing gratitude can be challenging even when we feel blessed. But what about when we are enduring times of pain, suffering or difficulty? How can we be thankful when we’ve lost our job or when our child is desperately ill?
When our world seems to be falling apart, how can we be expected to give thanks? Is the apostle saying we must be thankful for these troubles? I believe not. A close examination of the verse shows that Paul is not telling us to be thankful for the trail; rather, we are to be thankful in our circumstances. There is a major difference between being thankful for every situation in life and being thankful in those situations. He challenges us to find reasons to be thankful even in the worst of struggles.
All of us struggle in times of suffering and despair to express our gratitude for what God has done for us. But there are reasons believers can be thankful in times of trouble:
1. We’re Not Alone: No Christian ever goes through times of trouble alone. We are united with fellow believers through our union with the Savior. In your trial, turn to the Lord and seek out brothers and sisters in Christ.
2. God is Sovereign: Even when our life seems to be spinning out of control, we can trust that God is fully in command and that he uses times of trouble to make us mature and complete. James 1:2-3 advises us to, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
3. We Have Hope: We tend to think of hope as an emotional state that reflects what we would like to happen in the future but are unsure will actually happen. In Scripture, though, hope is a desire for a future outcome that is absolutely certain. We know that for those who love God all things work together for good (Romans 8:28). Because we trust in God’s promises, we can be completely confident about the outcome.
The practice of thanksgiving becomes a gift in itself. We learn to be thankful not only in the joyous times but for everything in our life, including testing and trials. We learn that even in grief and pain we can be thankful, since we still have the greatest gift we could ever want: God himself.
Giving thanks deepens our trust in His goodness and helps us to be humble in whatever struggle we have to endure. We’re not called to be thankful for our trials, but it’s we who benefit by being thankful in them.
Ed Jones pastors Fellowship at the Ranch Church at Robson Ranch. This nondenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. Visit Fellowship’s website www.fellowshipattheranchchurch.com for information.