Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 TH 5:18
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ EPH 5.20
Early in my Christian life my mother heard a teaching on giving thanks for everything. I was 23, out of work, and had recently moved back home. I was depressed and not very hopeful about my life.
I was incredulous. “Thank God for everything?” I asked. “Do you mean that I’m supposed to thank God if I have a flat tire?”
“Well, yes, because you don’t know but there might be an accident up the road that God prevented you from being in by letting you get that flat tire.”
I was skeptical, but decided to try to put my mom’s advice into practice and thank God for everything. It was the mid-summer and I was putting a patio in for my parents. As I lugged the large stones in the blazing sun I began to thank God. “Lord, thank you for how hot it is. Thank you for these stones. Thank you that I don’t have a job. Thank you that I had to move back home with my parents. Thank you for how miserable I am.”
I didn’t feel thankful. But I gave thanks out of sheer obedience to God’s word. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a habit that would change my life.
I remember another day many years later. I was playing basketball in the back yard with my son and twisted my ankle. As I sat on the asphalt basketball court it looked like someone had inserted a large sausage under the skin. My son stood there with eyes wide open. The thought went through my head—what kind of example would I show my son in my pain? So, I began to thank Jesus in the midst of my screaming pain. Later, a podiatrist told me it would’ve been better if I had broken my ankle, the sprain was so bad. During the following weeks I had many opportunities to practice thankfulness. One day when I was sliding into self-pity I caught myself, grabbed myself by the collar and began to thank the Lord. “Jesus, thank you that I sprained my ankle. Thank you that it was only one ankle I sprained and not both of them. Thank you that I did not have to go to Vietnam where many guys had their legs blown off by mines….”
By God’s grace I have sought to practice thankfulness in all kinds of circumstances. Not that I have done it perfectly, but God has helped me to give him thanks not only in times of blessing but even through tears and deep sadness.
I have learned that to give thanks in all circumstances doesn’t mean we thank him for the evil in those circumstances. But we can always thank him that despite the evil and pain we suffer, he is in control and he is loving and faithful and causes all things to work together for our good.
God doesn’t expect us to put on a smiley face and act like pain isn’t there. But he tells us to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. When we do this, even through tears or pain we glorify him and he will bless us and reward us for it.
If you are thinking of resolutions or new habits you’d like to begin this coming year, I would suggest you put giving thanks at the top of your list if you aren’t doing it already. Thanking God in everything has made a huge difference in my life and I believe it will in yours as well.
Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.