…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:20, N.K.J.V.)
In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18, N.K.J.V.)
These two verses make it clear that God wants us to give thanks always and for all things. But that’s a mighty tall order, isn’t it? I mean, those words “always” and “all” leave absolutely no room for exceptions, even if those exceptions seem perfectly valid in terms of human logic. Give thanks for the loss of a loved one? Give thanks for sickness/disease? Give thanks for trying circumstances? Surely God needs to be more realistic regarding what He expects of us.
The truth is, though, that we actually can chose to give thanks for all things, even the bad things. The secret is found in the framework we apply to the thanking. Confused? Well, let me show you what I mean.
Let’s say that you experience the death of a loved one. Perhaps it’s the death of a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a child, or a friend. How in the world can you possibly give thanks for a death that has left your heart broken? For one thing, you can thank God for all the time you had with the person. For another, you can thank God for all the loved ones who are still with you. For another, if the loved one was a Christian, you can thank God that the person is now out of this world of pain and suffering and is enjoying the eternal bliss of being with Jesus. For another, you can thank God that you losing a loved one better equips you to relate to others who lose loved ones and help them.
What about giving God thanks for sickness/disease? First, you can thank Him for all the days you’ve had free from sickness/disease. Second, you can thank Him that your sickness/disease has created a situation that burdens you to spend more time in prayer. Third, if you are a Christian, you can thank Him for the fact that in eternity you will never know sickness/disease again. Fourth, you can thank Him that your sickness/disease better equips you to relate to others who are experiencing sickness/disease and help them.
As for giving God thanks for trying circumstances, the Bible actually gives us a blueprint for how to do it. That blueprint is found in James 1:2-3, a passage which says:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (N.I.V.)
Did you spot that checklist of reasons why you can give God thanks during trying circumstances? #1: Thank Him that the circumstances allow your faith to be not only tested but also strengthened. #2: Thank Him that the circumstances and the faith-testing cause perseverance to be built up inside you. #3: Thank Him that the building up of your perseverance causes you to become a more mature and complete person.
Of course, these examples that I’ve given (the death of a loved one, sickness/disease, trying circumstances) are just three of life’s full tapestry of things for which we find giving thanks exceedingly difficult. Obviously, there are many, many others. But what I’m trying to get you to understand is that this framework for giving thanks can be applied to all of them. I’m not saying that everything is good. A lot of things definitely aren’t! What I’m saying is that God can bring good out of anything, even bad stuff, and you can honestly give Him thanks for that good if you take the time to figure out just exactly what that good is.