The Bible is very clear about being thankful at all times, and that is OK when things are going in your favour. This positive message gives more than an indication that this must be so even in times of adversity, offering upliftment and hope. However, how does someone express gratitude in adversity? When your friends see you stumbling and point fingers instead of offering a word of hope? When you are under pressure and in a depressed state looking for help they heap more misery by saying, ‘serve you right’, ‘it’s your fault’ you should express gratitude. When things are tough and nothing is working in your favour, you are encouraged that you should be thankful. Given our human psychology, our human self, this message is strange isn’t it? Our makeup, the humanity that is our identity tells us to wallow in self-pity, to ask, why me? Yet it is exactly what we should do, give thanks!
The message of gratitude is a prominent biblical theme; therefore, there must be something meaningful and special about such state of mind. Paul in his pastoral epistle to the Thessalonians says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’ (I Thess. 5:16-18 ). Spend some time to absorb this message, now did you get that? Give thanks in all circumstances, man that is hard pill to swallow. Paul is saying thankfulness should be a way of life for us all, naturally flowing from our hearts and mouths in spite of what is going on around us.
Exegesis of the Scriptures a little more closely will help us understand why we should be thankful and also how to have gratitude in different circumstances.
Beginning with the Old Testament in Psalms 136:1 we read, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.’ Here two reasons are revealed and became apparent why humanity should be thankful. Firstly, we should be thankful because of God’s constant goodness and secondly, because of His steadfast love. Clearly those characteristics of God does not change even when our circumstances change. Therefore only when humankind recognize the nature of his depravity and understand that, apart from God, there is only death (John 10:10; Romans 7:5), that his natural response is to be grateful for the life God gives. All may be lost, friends gone, your best count has forsaken you, life remains, ‘once there is life, there is hope.’
Again, in the book of Psalms, the great songwriter and poet king David advised Israel to give praise to God for His deliverance. “I will exalt you, O Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O Lord, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit. . . . You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth, clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever” (Psalm 30:1-12). David gives thanks to his God following an obviously difficult period in his life. So that this psalm of thanksgiving not only praises God in the moment but remembers God’s past faithfulness to him. It is a wonderful portrayal of the divine character of God, which is so delightful that praise is the only appropriate human response.
Its not impossible as the Scriptures are filled with superb illustrations of people being thankful in the eye of the storm, in the midst of hard circumstances and tough situations. A fitting model that portrays David’s distress is revealed in Psalms 28. Here David cries to God for mercy, protection, and justice. After he cries out to God, he writes, ‘Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song’ (Psalm 28:6-7). Here in the midst of adversity and danger, David remembers who God is and, because of knowing and trusting God, he gave thanks. Job is another fitting example of one with an attitude of praise, even in the face of adversity and death, he uttered the now famous remarks, ‘The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised’ (Job 1:21).
Of course, the New Testament have similar examples of multiple believers revealing an attitude of thankfulness in in the eye of the storm. The apostle Paul seemingly was more heavily persecuted than any other New Testament believer was and yet his attitude of thankfulness was unflinching and clear for all to see. Paul wrote, ‘Thanks be to God, who always lead us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him’ (2 Cor. 2:14). The author of the book to the Hebrews wrote, ‘Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe’ (Heb. 12:28). Peter chipped in by giving us a brilliant reason why we ought to be thankful in the midst of ‘grief and all kinds of trials,’ saying that, through the hardships, our faith ‘may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed’ (1 Pet. 1:6-7).
The clear message to the people of God is, we are to be thankful people, because we understand how much we have been given in Christ. Based on Paul’s second letter to Timothy, one of the features that will clearly defined the last days is a lack of thanksgiving among humanity. The wicked people of the world will be ‘ungrateful’ (2 Tim. 3:2).
Brothers and sisters let us start today to be thankful in all situations because God is worthy of our thanksgiving. It is beyond right that we credit Him for ‘every good and perfect gift’ He gives (James 1:17). As only when we are thankful, that our focus moves off selfish desires and off the pain of current circumstances. Communicating thankfulness will help us remember that God is in control of and bigger than our individual or collective situations. If you are caught is a storm, as most humans are at one time or another in our lives, remember God is there with us, we may not feel it, but we are never alone. God will calm the troubled waters of our souls, calm the winds and the waves, just by saying ‘peace, be still’ (Matt. 8: 23-27). Yes friends the winds and the waves obey His will! Thankfulness, then, is not only appropriate or a fitting response to our circumstances; it is actually healthy and beneficial to our well being. Because, it help us to see the bigger picture, that we belong to God, and that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3). Strictly speaking, humanity have an abundant life in Jesus (John 10:10), and gratefulness at all times even in the midst of our storm is not impossible, but a fitting response to our situations.