Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18)
It’s a declaration, a command, and also reads a little bit like a challenge. To give thanks in all circumstances is a difficult thing to do; it takes practice, but it is what we are meant to do as followers of Christ.
“All circumstances” is fairly blunt. The Greek word for “all” is translated as “every, every kind of,” so it means what it says – all. Even in the hard or confusing moments, we have to find ways to give thanks. And in the joyful moments, we must remember to do so, as well.
Earlier this year, when I was going through a difficult time, I came across Psalm 43 and started committing the verses to memory. To me, the words in that Psalm resonated because they felt like such an honest, prayerful plea before God.
Send out your light and your truth,
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God (Psalm 43:3-5)
Even when things are not going the way we planned, if we are to act like the psalmist implies that we should, we should still praise God.
Praising God, worshipping Him, seems like a different act than thanking Him, but I’m not sure that it is. I think that when we thank God, we are praising Him, too. When we pray for something to happen and it does, it’s easy to forget to thank Him, to offer up praise, but when we do, we draw closer to Him. But even when we don’t feel like thanking God or don’t think we will get anything out of this response, we are still supposed to.
I came across this psalm when I really needed it, and its words have encouraged me over the past several months. It is not only a call out to God, asking Him to lead me, admitting that my soul is “cast down.” It is also a promise – that my hope is in His plan and purpose for my life, because I will “again praise Him.” This is where faith plays a role. I believe that I will praise Him, and in so believing, I must praise Him in the present.
The “all circumstances” line in 1 Thessalonians rings true here. No matter what happens, we are to thank Him.
This holiday season, you might be celebrating in a way that feels strange. It might be uncomfortable or lonely. Gathering around the Thanksgiving table might look different to you and your family this year. Perhaps there is someone missing whose absence will be especially felt. Maybe you feel stagnant in your life and each day feels longer than the last. We have all given something up this year – lost important events, been uprooted in our careers, said goodbye to loved ones, or gone without. Even in this time of uncertainty and instability, we are meant to give thanks.
Earlier this year, I kept a note on my phone called “2 Things.” Each night, I would make sure to write down two things I was thankful for. Of course, I had much more than two blessings in my life, but on certain days, it was hard to find the specifics to thank God for when I was struggling with disappointments and sadness.
Having a grateful heart, a thankful attitude, takes practice. If we stop taking the time to thank God, it gets harder and harder to do. Focusing on the what God has blessed us with sets our hearts on the things above – the kingdom moments that we should be striving for each day.
This is not our final home, but God cares much more about you than you could ever imagine, and He has a purpose for you no matter where you find yourself this holiday season.
Charlotte Pence Bond is the New York Times best-selling author of Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice President along with two other books in the series. Her first solo book, Where You Go: Life Lessons from My Father (Center Street) was released in October 2018 and reveals lessons her father, Vice President Mike Pence, has taught her. She is a current contributor to Lightworkers.com and her work has been published in The Washington Times, Glamour magazine and featured in US Weekly, among other major media outlets. A graduate of DePaul University with a BA in Digital Cinema Screenwriting and English, Charlotte contributed writing and production skills to the Emmy Award-winning documentary Fleeced (WFYI Productions). Charlotte currently attends Harvard Divinity School where she is a candidate for a Masters in Theological Studies, with an emphasis on religious themes in literature and culture.