It’s been a tough year or so. A friend suffered a serious sexual assault. My wife’s ninety-year-old father is in hospice care, slowly dying from cancer on the other side of the Atlantic. A few months ago, I thought I had killed my eighty-year-old father when I accidentally ran over his leg with my car in my driveway. Three men in my wider circles committed suicide. And there have been an unusually large number of lesser stresses and disappointments.
Then, Tabletalk asked me to write on “giv[ing] thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18). The Lord knew I needed this admonition, and I’m now forced to figure out what it actually means and how to do it.
So, if it’s not giving thanks for all circumstances, if it’s not giving thanks by ignoring circumstances, and if it’s not giving thanks despite circumstances, what does 1 Thessalonians 5:18 mean? The key is the smallest word in the verse. Whatever circumstances we are in, we are to find cause for thanksgiving. This still allows us to lament sin and suffering, but it also requires us to find reasons for thanking God at the same time, or at least eventually. Let me give you some examples of how I’ve tried to build truth-based thankfulness in the midst of hard times.
While lamenting my friend’s traumatic assault with her, I thank God for the strength He has given her to pursue justice while also using her experience to help other sufferers. I thank God for the people and organizations God has blessed with expertise to help such victims recover.