One verse changed my perspective of hard times: “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
I came across these words during a particularly challenging time in my life, and they brought great comfort. I was hearing God say through His word that it is His will for me to give thanks regardless of my circumstances.
This verse is an imperative; it is something our loving Father expects us to do as an act of trust and confidence in God. At the time it was hard to hear this verse, but over the years I have discovered that giving thanks is not only a God-honoring act of obedience; it is also liberating.
Here are five results of saying “yes” to God and giving thanks, despite one’s current challenges:
1. It honors God’s sovereignty. There is not one atom in the universe outside the scope of God’s sovereignty. If the animals, the weather and the universe are ruled by God, then so are my circumstances. God means good in all that comes to the believer, although it is often hard for us to see it. Giving thanks in good times and bad times ultimately honors and shows our trust in Him.
2. It demonstrates Christian submission. Recently, in a particularly difficult leadership situation, I had to submit and thank God not only during the trouble, but also for it. I thanked Him for it because it forced me to lean into Him and trust Him for His desired outcome. My submission did not relieve me of leadership responsibility. Instead, it relieved me of the pressure of controlling outcomes.
3. It reminds us of a better future. God is good and will be good to His people. Sometimes in the middle of a great suspense movie it looks as though there is no way out for the hero. However, the script writer has already made a way of escape. In the great adventure of our life, we discover that our Heavenly Father has already written an escape story that we will only appreciate fully in hindsight. Knowing this fact allows us to give thanks by faith. But this does not necessarily mean we will receive our desired outcome; we may not. Regardless, we will receive God’s grace and help.
4. It brings peace in hard times. Some of our hard times are thrust upon us and some of them are self-created. I recently finished a book by R.T. Kendall dealing with the subject of jealousy. He suggests that the giving of thanks has a side benefit of helping us overcome jealousy. When we thank God for the talent, ability, success and favor being experienced by one of whom we are jealous, then we remember that God gives gifts and abilities, and He should be praised when we see those gifts being demonstrated in the lives of others.
5. It preaches the gospel to others. Giving thanks proclaims the gospel of peace over and against the humanistic trait of worry. When we worry, we take our eyes off God and place them on our problem. Our worry may be connected to the fear of losing something valuable to us or not receiving something we would like to have. Giving thanks proclaims that Jesus is better and that we need not worry because He will give us all things we need.
I don’t know what challenges or life-altering hardships you are facing. Making our way in a fallen world feels devastating at times. I know, however, that if you are a child of the King, you can give thanks to God with great confidence because He is good — and He means good — in all circumstances.