"16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Tomorrow, most of us will sit down at the dining room table for a Thanksgiving feast with turkey and dressing and all the traditional fixings. If your family is like mine, sometime during the meal, you may take turns telling one another about the things you are thankful for; your family, your friends and the many blessings that the Lord has showered upon you (at least, that's how we do it at the Collins house). But the apostle Paul - in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica - says that we are to give thanks in all circumstances. ALL circumstances, not just for blessings and not just in happy times.
Paul had plenty of experiences with difficult circumstances. In his ministry, Paul was beaten multiple times, stoned and shipwrecked three times. He was in constant danger, he faced hardships and sleepless nights and hunger and he was imprisoned. Plus, Paul suffered from anxiety as he worried about all the churches he founded on his missionary journeys. And yet, Paul learned to be thankful in those difficult circumstances. In fact, Paul learned to rejoice, even in suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope and hope did not put him to shame because the love of Jesus had been poured into His heart through the Holy Spirit (See Romans 5:3-5).
Let's face it: no one likes difficult circumstances. When my business unexpectedly collapsed in 2004, I was not giving thanks to God that I had just gone broke. It was a very dark period in my life and yet, now that I've recovered and come out on the other side of that disaster, I can look back and give thanks for the entire situation for two reasons. First, I'm thankful that the Lord was with me through the difficulties. He was with me the entire time and my faith grew stronger because of the situation. Secondly, I give thanks because in the midst of the difficult circumstance, the Holy Spirit was transforming me, preparing me for something else. The Lord was preparing me for ordained ministry which, as Paul demonstrated, is no cake-walk.
So how about you? Can you give thanks in ALL circumstances? Have you been through a difficult circumstance and realized that Jesus Christ was with you through it? Can you give thanks that He got you through it? Have your difficulties helped to transform you into a person that God can use for His glory? In Jesus Calling, Sarah Young states: "Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity...You may be in the same place, with the same set of circumstances, but it is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see from [God's] perspective." I hope that you can see God actively at work in your life and I pray that you are thankful for His presence and protection.
This Thanksgiving, be sure to thank God for your blessings, but give thanks to Him in all circumstances, especially the difficult ones. When you do, you will be blessed and He will receive the Glory. Happy Thanksgiving!