What are you giving thanks for?
Giving Thanks IN Every Circumstance
Many people feel that they are going above and beyond the call of duty when they are thankful “IN” all the trials that they face. They refer to 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to “give thanks in all circumstances.” It requires a lot of effort for one to be thankful when they are not pleased with your present circumstances. But this is the will of God (as the verse states) and it is appropriate that we search for things to be thankful for even when surrounded by things that are unpleasant. But, is that enough?
Giving Thanks FOR Our Circumstances
“Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:19-20 NIV
If we are thankful only for the things we consider “good,” we will miss some of God’s benefits. Cory Ten Boom told a story about the fleas in the Nazi work camp where she and her sister Betsy were interred. She said that even in the work camp, they found things to thank God for. Although her sister Betsy thanked God for them, Cory refused to be thankful for the fleas that were rampant in their bunks. However, after a time, she recognized that because of the fleas, the German guards would not enter their barracks. That allowed the two sisters to conduct regular Bible readings for themselves and the other women! We often find that “bad” things are actually a blessing in disguise. (See Note 1)
We may develop a “victim” mentality when we are thankful only for those things we perceive as good. There are always “bad” things around and when we complain about them, it may lead to thinking that God does not care for us. Or, that He has refused to answer our prayers when the bad circumstance remains. Rather than being thankful for the hard times, such a person may see himself (or herself) a victim of their circumstances. They never consider that God has allowed that uncomfortable situation to help them grow and mature (James 1:4).
We should do as Betsy did and give God thanks FOR all things. It is difficult but it is Biblical. Ephesians 5:20 tells us to develop an attitude of “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything.” Not just for the “good” things but for EVERYTHING – even those we perceive as “bad.”
Giving Thanks in Trials
In the book of James (James 1:2-5), we are told that we should consider our unusual trials as “pure joy“ (verse 2). The reason is that “the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (v3), and when perseverance finishes the work it is designed to carry out, you will “be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (v4). The next verse (v5) states that (after one finishes this process), “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God.” Many Christians who quote verse 5, fail to read verse 4 where we are told how to become “mature and complete, NOT LACKING ANYTHING” (even wisdom). If we are still lacking wisdom (or anything necessary to live for God), then we did not learn what we should have learned from our trials. By asking God for wisdom, we are asking Him to (re)start the process at verse 2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.“
So, even the “trials of many kinds” are intended for our good. Therefore, we can consider them “pure joy” and be thankful for them. When enduring such hard times, we should not complain, but ask God to help us to persevere and become mature. Then, the Word says that we will lack nothing in God’s plan. In this process, we will gain insight and wisdom from the hard times that we face.
So, what are you giving thanks for?
Note 1: Some teachers state that anything less than a perfectly comfortable life is due to our lack of faith, since (in their opinion) God wants us to have financial and physical prosperity – not just spiritual prosperity. To better understand this teaching, visit this “Faith and Prosperity” study page.