12 Brothers and sisters, we ask you to respect those who are working with you, leading you, and instructing you. 13 Think of them highly with love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are disorderly. Comfort the discouraged. Help the weak. Be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure no one repays a wrong with a wrong, but always pursue the good for each other and everyone else. 16 Rejoice always. 17 Pray continually. 18 Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-18)
“Give thanks in every situation.” Really? That may sound like the kind of “happy talk” we’d hear from a person who’s never faced any big trouble, any of life’s deep hurts.
But Paul wrote these words to Christians in a city where a mob had tried to arrest and snuff out the message he preached (see Acts 17:1-10; see also 2 Corinthians 11:23-30 for Paul’s summary of the kind of life he’d led).
Paul really meant “every situation,” including very hard times as well as good times. At all times, he said, there are reasons to thank God.
We all know that feelings are unpredictable. They cannot be commanded or controlled. Telling your friend or spouse not to feel angry or your child not to feel badly seldom leads to a happy outcome.
That’s what I like so much about Thanksgiving Day being on our calendar. Behaviors can be called for. Regardless of where or in what we find ourselves, we pause to give thanks. Gratitude is a way through even the most difficult of circumstances.
So it was for my family as we gathered to visit, eat, love on the grandchildren, and to give thanks. We did so this year, even though one of us (Tim, my youngest brother) was still gone, dead years ago at age 21 from a car accident. We did so in the face of my Mom’s ongoing battle with ovarian cancer.
We gave thanks. In everything give thanks.
And that’s what Paul is doing, it seems. I may not be able to give thanks for all of the things that happen, yet I can give thanks in everything for the confidence that God is always present and is always at work for good.
When have you found God at work in your life in the midst of a bad or painful situation? What hard situation are you facing right now that gives you the chance to act on Paul’s words?