It sure seems unlikely that one should elevate gratitude into the nebulous stratosphere of God’s will, but that is exactly what Paul does in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. It seems improbable because one would expect instead some great exhortation toward fulfilling a noble charge, as if Paul should exhort each of us to become a president or a pastor or a schoolteacher or a stockbroker. Or, one might anticipate that he would call mankind to a return to the grand virtues of the ancient ages—perhaps wisdom or civility or manliness. But instead of the expected tirade toward trade or traditions, we’re simply called to be thankful.
Consider the actual words: “. . . give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1Th 5:18). Such words beg the question: for what are you thankful?
Is it family? Some seem to think they have no real reason to be thankful for family. “My family is too messed up,” some might lament, as if brokenness was a novelty given only to them and their direct or extended relations. But surely even the brokenness of some families can prompt praise. Think about what is learned, what is overcome, what is forgiven. Even those irreconcilable things can motivate gratitude in that they invite us to find our comfort in a loving and gracious God.
Is it stuff? It seems we have more stuff in our own homes than exists in some third world countries. Typically the strictest among us see this as a sad portrait of Americana. But one should choose instead to own joy and appreciation for such; after all, it really is God’s stuff and He has graciously allowed us to enjoy it. Every good and perfect gift comes from above.
Is it opportunity—opportunity to work, to play, to laugh, to cry, to suffer? Our individual worlds abound with opportunities to tackle any number of responsibilities, interests, needs and causes. What a privilege we have to pursue so much, particularly when so many around the world can enjoy so little or even nothing. Gratitude for long walks on a crisp November evening, thankfulness for the privilege to sit with a grieving friend, joy regarding that new job—the list goes on. Indeed, there is just so much set before us for which to thank our God.
Perhaps right now would be a good time to pause quietly. Give yourself even five minutes. Minimize your browser and sit back and close your eyes and reflect on some of these things and more. Say “thank you” to the Lord of heaven and earth.
One of the benefits of this is that it puts you right in the center of His will—and that is a very special place to be.