Giving Thanks in All Things

Giving thanks in life’s small challenges prepares us to give thanks in hard circumstances.

Insects creep me out. (They’re called “creepy crawlies” for a reason!) So to say I was unhappy when I found some ants making their way into my apartment would be an understatement. All things considered, the ants are nothing to complain about. Indeed, God tells us in Philippians 1:14 to “do all things without murmurings and disputings.” However, in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, God commands Christians to go a step further. Not only should we refrain from complaining, but we should also give thanks “in every thing.”

This commandment seems callous and impossible. How are we to give thanks in all things? Just a look at the news will show a catalog of the world’s woes. When wars are raging, friends are hurting, and family is suffering, it can feel cruel to thank God amid trials. Yet one important distinction to make is that God does not command us to give thanks for every thing. He says we must give thanks in every thing.

One sermon I heard helped me understand this message. In the message, the pastor illustrated this concept by talking about a preacher who would open every Sunday service by thanking God. But one Sunday, everything went wrong. A terrible storm hit the town, damaging the church. In addition, most of the congregation, including the preacher, was sick. Those who were well enough to attend church doubted the preacher would find anything to thank God for. Yet when he got to the end of his opening prayer, the preacher concluded with, “And I thank God that not every day is like today.”

Sometimes we need to take a step back from the challenges in life and recognize God’s mercy even in hardship. Even though the ants and I will never be friends, I can thank God that there are only a few of them (and that something larger didn’t decide to check out my space instead). But again, my ant problem is small. It’s easier to give thanks when I’m not facing a bad diagnosis or the loss of a loved one. How can we give thanks in the sorrowful moments of life?

David lives out this principle. In our church reading plan, we recently read 1 Samuel 21. In that passage, David is on the run from his father-in-law, King Saul. David grabs the sword of Goliath and flees in haste to the king of Gath. When the king’s servants point out that David is the mighty warrior of Gath’s enemy, Israel, David becomes afraid. He pretends to be insane, humbling himself by acting like a madman. If anyone had reason to hold back thanks in a trying circumstance, David would have a good excuse.

But Psalm 34 tells a different story.  David wrote this psalm during that period of his life. Yet the psalm opens with the resounding statement: “I WILL bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Throughout the rest of the psalm, David makes good on his promise to praise God. He voices his fears and concerns but always ties them back to his hope in the Lord. 

How could David have the confidence to praise God in such a troubling time? His thankfulness in part comes from his consistent praise of God in the small things of life. David was known early on throughout Israel as a skilled harpist, and he undoubtedly played songs of praise to God while tending his father’s sheep. His psalms chronicle the ups and downs of life as he went from a shepherd boy to the king of Israel. Yet throughout all the trials and triumphs, David gave thanks. May we then remember the source of our praise and give thanks in every thing to the One who is worthy. “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever” (1 Chronicles 16:34). 

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