We find a subtle yet very important distinction here. We must give thanks. But Paul doesn’t tell us to give thanks for all circumstances but rather in all circumstances.
That two letter word, taking up so little room on a page makes so much difference.
I can give thanks in the midst of trials. I can give thanks in my hard moments. I can give thanks in moments of weakness and despair. I don’t give thanks for all the hard things necessarily – but in them.
I can also give thanks for the growth that comes, for the character developed, for the blessings and providence seen throughout those hard times.
Gratitude is something that is not innate. It is unnatural and hard; it goes against the very human tendency to look at the worst thing possible and feel ourselves be submerged in the slime of life. Gratitude helps turn our hearts upward. Though it does not change our circumstances, it changes our hearts and our attitudes.
But, if you’re anything like me, sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes, you rebel against the very idea. Even though we know it will be good for us. Even though we know we need to. Need some help getting started? Here are some very practical and very thoughtful hints my dad once preached about:
* Count people as double the value of things. Your family. Your children. Your friends.
* Count your mistakes and sins. OK, sorry, count the big ones! Did you get what you deserved? Perhaps you were humbled a little, embarrassed a little. But does God still love you? Does he still bless you, look after you, forgive you, even though you make those mistakes? Count each one of those mistakes, and remember that God still loves you any way. Each of those times when he should have incinerated you, and gave you grace anyway, is something to count!
* Count the things you have lost. A spouse? A parent? A friend? Miss them? Of course! Now, count the reasons why their memory is so dear, why they are so precious to you. Aren’t you glad you knew them?
“T’is better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all” (A.L. Tennyson)
* Count the people to whom you should be grateful. Who are they? What did they do to make you grateful? Well, now, guess what I’m going to say? Thank them!!
* Count the Spiritual blessings twice. Why? Ah come on, Because they’re far more valuable than that!!!!!
* Count the good people you have known. Friends, mentors, people who have inspired you and taught you good things.
So today, give thanks in all circumstances. Develop that habit, because even in the midst of our hardest moments we can be grateful. We can know that though we feel as if the very ground under our feet is trembling and unstable, we know that we have a God and a spiritual kingdom that is utterly reliable, that “cannot be shaken.”