“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess 5:18)
Gratitude comes easy when it concerns things that benefit us in some way, but it’s very difficult to be grateful in the dark times of life that involve pain, death, and trial. Today we live in a difficult time with COVID-19, social isolation, great political unrest, and financial hardships. How can we possibly be grateful in such times as these without being insincere?
Why Give Thanks?
First, we must realize that gratitude is a command, not an option: “Give thanks in all circumstances…” If God expects us to give thanks in all circumstances, then we must be able to do so. He wouldn’t command us to transform into a snake unless it was possible. So if you tell yourself “I can’t be grateful when I’m so miserable” then you are falsely believing it’s impossible. Take courage! Fight these thoughts by telling yourself, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me!” (Phil 4:13).
Second, it’s helpful to understand why we give thanks. Scripture tells us we give thanks because (i) “this is the will of God” and (ii) because it is “for you.” When God commands something, He does it for our good (Deut 10:13). Our good. God doesn’t need our thanks, but He still demands it. Why? Because we owe it to Him and because it nurtures our souls. Gratitude is a form of praise. We praise that which we admire as good. Whenever we drink something tasty, we praise it by saying, “Mmm, that’s delicious!” Similarly, when our soul consumes something good, its joy is made complete with praise!
How to be Grateful
That’s what God’s presence does to our souls. The reason we can “give thinks in all circumstances” then is because God is present in all circumstances (Matt 28:20). He was there with Paul when he was naked, cold, hungry, and alone. The secret to gratitude is God’s very presence. Just like when food makes your stomach grateful, so too does the presence of God make your soul grateful.
However, it does no good for the food to just be present. You have to consume it. God’s presence is always there, but sometimes we are too blind to see it because we are distracted by the burdens of life. Other times we know He is there, but we don’t consume Him. Jesus wants us to fix our eyes upon Him and feast on His Word. This requires praying, reading Scripture, and directing your spiritual eyes on Christ who transcends your current situation. This doesn’t mean you won’t feel unhappy at times, but you’ll be able to transform that state into gratitude.
Think of Jesus as the most delicious, priceless food that your soul shall ever consume. Will your soul not be delighted with gratitude when it receives Him? So is it not true that your soul becomes ungrateful because you are not consuming Him? You must practice the presence of God. Whenever you take a hot sip of coffee on a cold morning, remember that you are not just tasting coffee, you are tasting a bit of His goodness. We can taste, touch, smell, and hear the goodness of God. So be grateful, for this is the will of God in your life.