“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” --1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)
Many years ago my wife and I suffered the loss of our twin sons in a late-term miscarriage. In the midst of our grieving, a well-meaning friend quoted 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to me. I did not take it well. In fact, I was offended by his “insensitive” remark, and I said something along the lines of, “Are you really telling me that it was God’s will for my children to die!”
It took time and perspective for me to realize how I had misinterpreted that verse (and my friend’s intent). It was not God’s will for my wife’s miscarriage. That event was the unfortunate byproduct of living in a fallen, broken world. Rather, it is God’s will that, regardless of my circumstances, I give thanks. In the good, in the bad, in the joy, and in the sorrow my thankfulness is found in my faith that God is always good. He never changes, and therefore I am thankful that whatever comes my way I know I can count on his faithfulness.
Joseph is a perfect example of this. Hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused, and unfairly imprisoned, Joseph states to his family…
“I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.” -Genesis 45:4-8
Do you hear the gratitude in Joseph’s voice? “Because I went through all this, God has allowed me to be the instrument to save us all.”
The Thanksgiving after I lost my sons I remember thinking I had nothing to be thankful for. Happily, God’s graciousness taught me how wrong I was. Because I went through that sorrow, God has allowed me to be an instrument to encourage and lift up others.
This Thanksgiving perhaps you are grieving the loss of a love one, or you’re facing financial stress, or life seems to be crushing you. Perhaps it feels impossible to find something to be thankful for. Let me urge you to be thankful anyway. Make it an act of faith. Lift your eyes to God and cry out, “If for nothing else, I am thankful that you never change and that I can count on your faithfulness to me.” I promise you if you give thanks in your circumstances, God will always respond with his peace that surpasses our understanding (Philippians 4:6-7)