You know the verse. It’s short, concise, and direct.
In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess. 5:18)
Give thanks? Sure. We’ll give thanks when a job is provided. We’ll give thanks when a baby is born. And when a gift is received. And when verbal encouragement and praise is offered. And when the weather is pleasant according to our tastes. And when the meal is satisfactory. And when there is enough to pay the bills. And when the car starts. And when the friend is released from the hospital healed and healthy. Sure. We’ll give thanks.
But what about when the job isn’t provided and there is no pregnancy and when gifts aren’t given and praise isn’t offered and weather is uncomfortable and meals are dissatisfying and meager and there are more bills than money and the car breaks down again and the friend stays in the hospital? What then? Are we still to give thanks?
In everything give thanks.
Perhaps a couple of examples might help us think rightly about giving thanks.
In 1636, in the midst of the Thirty Years’ War, Lutheran pastor Martin Rinkart is said to have buried 5000 of his parishioners. The city of Eilenburg, in which he lived, became a refuge for many displaced by the war. But because the city was not only under attack from the Swedes but also struggling to keep up with the influx of so many people, the city was ravaged by the needs of wounded soldiers, disease, famine, and economic disaster. On average, he buried 15 people per day, every day, for a year.
When the war ended, as part of a celebratory service, Rinkart penned a hymn that included the following words:
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!
All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
God is a bounteous God. In everything He does and in all He ordains, He gives plenty to meet our need and to sustain us. Our problem is not that we haven’t received enough from God, but that we have not thought rightly about what we have received from Him. Puritan pastor Matthew Henry provides an example of how to think thankfully about God’s provision, as is recorded in The Life of the Rev. Matthew Henry:
On Tuesday evening, as he was coming from his catechetical exercise, March 3, 1713, he fell into the hands of robbers, within half a mile of Hackney; they took from him about ten or eleven shillings, upon which he makes these remarks:— “1. What reason have I to be thankful to God, that having travelled so much, yet I was never robbed before now. 2. What abundance of evil this love of money is the root of, that four men should venture their lives and souls for about half-a-crown a-piece. 3. See the power of Satan working in the children of disobedience. 4. The vanity of worldly wealth—how soon we may be stript of it, how loose we ought to sit to it.”
Here is the example of a man who has learned the wise art of giving thanks in all things. In fact, it could be said as we come to the day of Thanksgiving tomorrow, that unless we have given thanks for all things in our lives — including those which might be considered difficult or unfair or unjust — we are not yet truly thankful. So as you begin to prepare for a Thanksgiving meal tomorrow, also prepare your heart to be thankful in all that the Lord has given you these days.