The Bible says, "Give thanks in everything" (1 Thess. 5:18 HCSB). In everything? In trouble, in distress? Even interruptions?
Jesus did. When five thousand people interrupted his planned retreat, he took them out to lunch. "Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fish and, looking to heaven, he thanked God for the food" (Matt. 14:19 NCV, emphasis mine).
Jesus was robustly thankful. He was thankful when Mary interrupted the party with perfume. When he hugged children and blessed babies and watched blind people look at their first sunsets, Jesus was thankful. When the disciples returned from their first mission trip, he rejoiced: "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth" (Luke 10:21).
Thank you, . . .
Maybe your situation isn't an interruption. Maybe you're in the hospital, in a fix, in a mess.
Still God's goal for you in everything is simply this: a grateful spirit. No mist is so thick that the sunlight of appreciation cannot burn it away. Case in point? Jack Ryan.
Pastors aren't supposed to have favorites, I know. But Jack has always been one of mine. You'd more quickly find a moose on the moon than Jack with a complaint. He's a seventy-year-old, silver-haired saint, quick to smile and encourage. Always seated near the front of the sanctuary, lifting his hands to worship from the first song to the final verse.
I went to see him at his home last week. He'd been absent for some time. Heart disease had sucked the strength out of his body. Sleep was scarce. Energy even more so. I sat in the chair next to his, reached across, and took his hands.
"Jack," I asked, "I hear you aren't doing well?"
"Oh, Max," he corrected with a weak smile. "Never better."
"They say you can't sleep."
"No, I can't. But I can pray."
His eyes danced as he tilted his head. "I just talk to Jesus, Max. I tell him I love him. I tell him how good he is. I tell him, 'Thanks.' These are good times for me. I'm just talking to Jesus."
Poor circulation took Jack's color. Disease sapped his vigor. His hands trembled. Skin draped like cloth from his bones. Yet you'd have thought he was a kid on Christmas Eve.
In a sense he was. Early the next morning he went home to Jesus. Who is the real victor in life? Is it not the person who dies with a thankful and hope-filled spirit? How do we die with gratitude? We live with it.