Many a Thanksgiving meal at our house has featured a trip around the table asking everyone to express that for which they are thankful. It is a common and meaningful practice.
Jesus, family and friends, health, opportunity and dinner are regularly mentioned, with a few random interesting items thrown in. When I think about what I am thankful for, the big three are Jesus, family and friends, and health, and of course the many things that follow from each of those.
However, my thanksgiving stops far short of all the things for which I should be thankful. Nowhere in the Bible is it suggested that we express our thanksgiving only for the most important things. We are to be thankful in everything.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18
These three little verses say quite a lot. There is no wiggle room. Always, continually, and all do not leave room for exceptions.
I’ve wanted to interpret “give thanks in all circumstances” as giving thanks for something, even when other things aren’t going well. But, I’m not sure that’s accurate. When we literally give thanks for all circumstances, we must admit to ourselves that God has allowed difficulty into our lives for his purpose, and therefore we can and should be thankful for it. That’s tough to swallow.
It is complete surrender to the will of God in my life. I may desire to surrender all to God, I may sing it and say it, but it is difficult to remember that when I find myself mired in a mess.
Interestingly, I have found it easier to be thankful for serious problems than for daily pain-in-the-neck challenges. When I had cancer, my attitude was much more thankful than I would have thought. I knew it was serious, and I had to seek the Lord constantly. I was in tune with him during those months, for I had to be, and I realized what a blessing life is. I was thankful for just about everything.
Except for a cold that I got during chemotherapy. Who is ever thankful for a sore throat and stuffy nose? I complained more about that stupid cold than I did all of the nasty cancer treatment. Similarly, on average days on which I got a lousy night’s sleep and have too much to do am I thankful? I’m more likely to be grumpy than thankful. When I have to fill up the car in cold rain and get wet, am I thankful? Nope. I mutter.
I think it is more difficult to be thankful for every day frustrations than it is to be grateful in significant difficulties. Maybe it’s because they happen more frequently. Perhaps it is simply a bad habit. Whatever the reason, it is an opportunity for my attitude of thanksgiving to grow.
This Thanksgiving, as always, I am thankful for the love and grace of God, family, friends and good health, for those are tremendous blessings. I am thankful for opportunities to serve, to work, and to be Jesus to people who don’t know him.
And I’m going to work on being thankful even when I’m frustrated, don’t feel well, or when things aren’t going my way. I honestly don’t think we have any wiggle room, and I’ll have to train myself to give thanks in all circumstances. The question is, can I ever be truly thankful for a cold? We’ll see.
Are you more or less thankful in daily difficulties than in serious trouble? How do you remind yourself to be thankful?