“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV) How often do we ask the question, “Lord, what is your plan for my life?” I love a simple answer. God’s Word is clear. We are to give thanks no matter what is going on in our lives.
To be honest, sometimes being thankful is hard. Instead of saying, “thank you,” we would rather ask the question, “Why did this have to happen to me?” Questions are normal, especially during hard times. If we do not ask questions, we may not be working towards a place of healing and acceptance. Let’s not forget that the book of Psalms is full of gut wrenching questions. David asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1) David shared honest hurt in the middle of a challenging time.
During hard times it is easy to focus on what is missing from our lives. Maybe it is a relationship, a resource, or an opportunity. These missing pieces can leave us feeling left out and forgotten. Certainly these feelings make it hard to be thankful. In ministry life, we can feel like we are the only ones trying to make an impact for the gospel in our church or community. This can lead us to experience bitterness or display spiritual pride.
How can we give thanks in all circumstances? I have one idea to share with you. Instead of focusing on what is missing, let’s focus on what is present.
I was reminded of this truth at a women’s conference in Northeast Arkansas. I was talking to a group of ladies, and we were sharing our life stories. One lady made an incredible impression on me. First, let me tell you that she was 99 years old. That is right—-99 years old! She shared about a hard time in her life. Following 52 years of marriage, her husband was tragically killed in an accident. She shared her feelings and questions in the days following the accident.
In the midst of her grieving process, the Lord reminded her of 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and the call to give thanks in all circumstances. She asked the Lord, “How can I give thanks when I just lost my husband?” This precious lady shared God’s answer with our group. She said, “The Lord told me to focus on the 52 years of marriage that we had together.” I wish you could have been in that circle listening to this sweet lady share her story. The passion in her voice left me speechless. This sweet lady had not only learned to give thanks, she had lived it. Year after year, following her husband’s sudden death, she found a way to give thanks.
Are you in the middle of a hard time in your life or ministry? If so, know that God sees you and that He is with you. Ask Him to show you a way to be thankful in all circumstances. As you do, you will find that peace is not the absence of problems but rather the assurance that God is with you. Today, if you want to follow God’s plan for your life, simply stop and give thanks.