Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
I like Thanksgiving. The gatherings, the food, the posture of looking for the good in life. The weather is almost always beautiful - cool and crisp, but with a still-warm sun beating down. The colours of trees are vibrant and alive even as they approach dormancy. Thanksgiving is a time of joy and hope and celebration. It is a time where it is easy to come face to face with all that we have to really be thankful for.
But when the idea of thankfulness is explored in the Bible I come face to face with 1 Thessalonians 5:18. There, I'm told to "be thankful in all circumstances." Not just on one day (or weekend). Not just when the food is good and the gatherings are joy-filled. Not just when the weather is great and the scenery is beautiful. "In all circumstances."
Sometimes looking at different English translations of the Bible can help show a nuance of a passage that allows me to understand a text in a way I'm more comfortable with. I've searched a bunch of different translations of this verse. Guess what they all say!?! Give thanks in all circumstances or in every circumstance. I can't get off the hook on this one. Thankfulness is a posture I'm always supposed to be pursuing.
Then I think about my life when I seek to be thankful in comparison to when I am grumbling or complaining or looking for the faults. I am always happier when I pursue thankfulness. I am more considerate of others when I'm pursuing thankfulness. I'm kinder when I'm filled with gratitude. I actually end up being more optimistic when I intentionally look for the good. Thankfulness doesn't deny the hurt or pain or struggle, but it does shift my focus and in doing so helps me to be better - for myself and the world around me.
Give thanks in all circumstances isn't about denial. It isn't about pious optimism. It isn't about being ignorant of the pain of life. It is about God's desire for us to be the very best versions of what he created us to be. It is about his invitation into the abundant life of Jesus that we spoke about on Sunday.
As we move past Thanksgiving Weekend, I pray we will be encouraged to continue the posture. May we continue to give thanks - not for all circumstances, but in all circumstances. May we turn our eyes towards who and what is good gifts from God around us and may we be changed by him through this practice.
If you're interested in a story of personal transformation through adopting a practice of gratitude for the small things, you can read Ann Voskamp's book 1,000 Gifts: Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Ann is an author, speaker, a farmer's wife, and a homeschooling mom who lives in North Perth, ON.