To give thanks is an action and rejoice is a verb and these things are not mere pulsing emotions. While I may not always feel joy, God asks me to give thanks in all things, because He knows that the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving. —Ann Voskamp1
Through the Lens of Thanksgiving
We enjoy clearer vision when we look at life through the lens of thanksgiving.
When we’re sick, we can still thank God for the parts of our body that are working well and for the diseases we do not have. When we face a setback, we can thank Him for all the areas of life that are in good shape. When there are dark clouds, we can thank Him for silver linings. To paraphrase G. K. Chesterton, we take many things for granted when we should take them with gratitude.
Even our pagan world knows this. Perhaps you’ve heard the 1940s song by Johnny Mercer that says, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and latch on to the affirmative.” The thing is, that’s a hollow platitude without Christ. A truly grateful attitude is only possible for those who take the Bible seriously, submit themselves to Christ’s Lordship, commit themselves to the will of God, and walk in the light of His promises. Only then are we certain of fulfilling the instruction of 1 Thessalonians 5:18:
The phrase “in everything give thanks” has two parts. The first is: “In everything.” Notice it doesn’t say for everything. Some things are evil, hurtful, harmful, and tragic. I don’t think it’s necessary to thank God for those things, but we can thank Him for His blessings in the midst of those things. First Corinthians 3:20-23 says: “For all things are yours: whether … the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”
The apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “I thank my God … that you were enriched in everything by Him” (1 Corinthians 1:4-5, emphasis added). He told them to “abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us” (2 Corinthians 8:7, emphasis added). He told the Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6, emphasis added).
Those who abide in Christ are enriched in everything, abounding in everything, and prayerful in everything. All things are ours, and we are Christ’s. All things work together for good as we love Him and fulfill His purposes. Therefore, we can be thankful in everything, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss undertook a careful study of all the biblical references to thankfulness. She spent months looking at what the Bible says about the grace of gratitude and meditating on the implications of those verses. Her Bible study proved a vigorous personal journey, after which she concluded: “I’ve seen that if I am not ceaselessly vigilant about rejecting ingratitude and choosing gratitude, I all-too-easily get sucked into the undertow of life in a fallen world. I start focusing on what I don’t have that I want, or what I want that I don’t have. My life starts to feel hard, wearisome, and overwhelming.”
“A lack of gratitude,” Nancy wrote, “manifests itself in fretting, complaining, and resenting …. Even in the most turbulent waters, choosing gratitude rescues me from myself and my runaway emotions. It buoys me on the grace of God.”2
I wonder how our attitudes would change if we looked up every biblical reference to thanksgiving and gratitude and took them seriously. Why not start with 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and practice it today, in everything?
The last half of the phrase says: “Give thanks.” In any given situation, we can either collapse in discouragement or we can turn around in a 360-degree circle and spot a few things for which to be thankful.
In her book, A Thankful Heart, Carole Lewis writes of when, on Thanksgiving Day 2001, she suffered the tragic loss of her daughter to a traffic accident. She claimed 1 Thessalonians 5:18 as the spiritual secret that sustained her during that time, and later wrote: “Developing a thankful heart for all the moments of our lives, both good and bad, mean that instead of ranting against the things we can’t change, we choose to thank God. I believe that being thankful to God has the potential not only to alter our perceptions of our circumstances but also to heal our hearts during the most painful circumstances of life.”3
We live in a world of uncertainty, but the Lord promises: “I will certainly be with you” (Exodus 3:12). With God’s presence to accompany us, His Word to instruct us, His providence to work all things for our good, and His future prepared for us, we should certainly accentuate the positive. Beginning today, rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in all things give thanks, because this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
A truly grateful attitude is only possible for those who take the Bible seriously, submit themselves to Christ’s Lordship, commit themselves to the will of God, and walk in the light of His promises.
- What is my attitude toward the Word of God? How am I expressing thankfulness in everything?
- Am I honoring Christ as the Lord of my life? How am I trusting Him in difficult circumstances?
- Meditate on Romans 8:26-28. Pray for the courage to face each day with thanksgiving.
- Make a list of things for which you can be thankful, perhaps even start a journal.
1Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 176.
2Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Choosing Gratitude (Chicago: Moody, 2009), 16-17.
3Carole Lewis, A Thankful Heart (Ventura, CA: Regal), passim.