“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for his is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
When is it easiest to be thankful? When things are going good, right? While it might be easier to praise God when you are most happy and comfortable, it is just as important, if not more so, to thank God when things are not so good.
In the verse above, Paul tells the church to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. This can be hard to do, especially when things aren’t going well. So why do we have to give thanks? Why can’t we give in to cynicism and pessimism? Because God calls us to a life of continual thankfulness. It is God’s will that we give thanks.
This is not to say that we deny reality or that we need to be always smiling. This kind of pressure to be happy all the time has recently become known as toxic positivity. For example, when a friend expresses a real problem or loss and we respond with something like, “look on the bright side” or “everything happens for a reason”. These kinds of platitudes can do more harm than good, causing those in pain to feel guilty for their real and valid feelings.
Instead, we can be compassionate and comforting without rejecting or minimizing their grief or pain. You can say things like “I’m here for you,” “That sounds really painful,” or “I care, and God cares too,” or even “I don’t know what to say, but I’m here for you.” Offering to pray with them can also remind them of God’s presence and express your compassion without causing guilt.
So why in our saddest moments, when life is the most difficult, does God ask us to give thanks anyway? Because God knows the good it can do for us to recognize even the smallest of blessings. God calls us to give thanks, not for the terrible things that are happening, but for the strength God gives us to get through it, for God’s presence with us in our pain, for the people God sends to us to help in times of need, or for the grace and mercy that God gives us through Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, which gives us a way to be reconciled with God no matter how big our mistakes or failures are.
In Colossians 3:17 it says, “And whatever you do whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Whether things are good or bad, what we do and say matters to God and to those around us. As Christians, our actions and words are outpourings of the same love and compassion that we receive from God.
So this Thanksgiving, whether you see blessings abounding in your life or you are struggling to find anything to be thankful for, turn to God, the one who gives grace and salvation daily and who calls you to share love in all you do and say. Give thanks for God’s presence and provision in your life, even in the smallest ways. And look for ways God is sending you as someone to be thankful for in the lives of others.
Your sister in Christ,