Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. — 1 Thessalonians 5:18
We’d all be happier people if we could “give thanks in every situation.” When Paul wrote this, he had a lot not to give thanks for. He was rejected by society because of his beliefs. He had a persistent physical ailment. He’d often been beaten, whipped, and imprisoned. His work–starting churches–was constantly being undermined by congregational in-fighting.
The only way he could write about giving thanks was by having a much bigger way of looking at things that put all his problems into perspective. It was grace. Seeing that he didn’t have to earn his salvation, but that it was given him freely through Christ, was the game-changer. Starting there, his eyesight changed and he started seeing that EVERYTHING was given him out of love by the Creator.
Wouldn’t it be nice to go through a day looking for things to give thanks for rather than focusing on things to grumble about? For example, the older I get the more I can join that ranks of AARP people everywhere and grumble about how my body is falling apart. But shouldn’t I have even more reason to give thanks for the miracle that my old body still is, and how it still enables me to wake up each day and view a world of wonders, small and great?
It does take work to make thankfulness a habit, but it should be fun work that turns the day brighter, even during cloudy times. Father Henri Nouwen, in one of his daily devotions, expressed this very well:
“In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”