I dearly enjoy the Thanksgiving season, even though so much of it in our culture has little to do with giving thanks and even less to do with thanking God. In fact it is relatively easy to enjoy the holiday season and put together a great Thanksgiving Day meal when compared with the challenge of obeying 1 Thessalonians 5:18: "In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
Giving thanks for something-like a good harvest in an agricultural society-is important, but easier to do than giving thanks in everything. Yet, this is God's will. Jesus cleansed ten lepers, but only one came back to say thank you. If humanity has difficulty giving thanks for good things, how can we possibly give thanks in everything (not necessarily for everything)?
Our lives should reflect a thankful heart consistently-regardless of what is happening. Giving thanks in everything does not mean everything that happens pleases us, but that God is always the same loving, powerful, forgiving, saving, merciful, and sovereign Lord. Hebrews 13:5 says, "He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you." The Holy Spirit is with us at all times during our journey through this life. He will walk with us in everything and we should, as His people, give thanks to Him in everything.
This year (as every year) the President of the United States will be presented two dressed turkeys and one live turkey. The live turkey will be symbolically "pardoned" and spend the remaining days of its life on a farm somewhere. Everyone who is truly born again is pardoned. Our sin debt is paid in full. We are forever forgiven. Salvation is secure. The God who gives us this great gift deserves not just a thank you but a life of thankfulness.
Impatience and ingratitude are just two traits that will prevent us from being thankful people. A Spirit-filled life, on the other hand, emits thankfulness. Paul is not suggesting in this verse we can avoid trouble or difficulty by being thankful. What he is saying is that whatever happens to us in life, we are better if we are thankful. Giving thanks in everything is what we do, but being thankful is who we are called to be. Thankfulness is an attitude, even a commitment that pleases God, inspires others, and strengthens us.
We may not be able to give thanks for everything, but we can thank God in the midst of anything. Psalm 118:1, "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful loves endures forever." Sometimes it can be both courageous and healing to simply thank God for being our God.
Whatever trial, struggle, hurt, or disappointment we may be dealing with this Thanksgiving season, please remember that our Savior is our source, not simply a resource, for life. Giving thanks in everything is God's will. If He commanded it, we can be sure it is for our good. Thankfulness is always in season.
James Rudy Gray is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He serves as the editor of The Baptist Courier, the official newspaper of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.