Much has been said and written about giving thanks. We know the Bible prompts us multiple times to be thankful. But sometimes it’s difficult to live it out. Time and time again, negative things get in our way to hinder us from giving thanks.
Of course, when you are young and successful, it’s easy to be thankful. And if one is healthy and free of ailments, giving thanks is no problem. Certainly, if you are well and have everything you need, that’s reason enough to give thanks. But if limitations and impairments set in, if you are unable do the things you once enjoyed, if dreams don’t come true…can you still give thanks? Is that even possible? Some people are simply too overwhelmed to do so. As a result, discontentment slowly creeps in, and thankfulness becomes increasingly rare. I think you know what I mean.
What is gratitude all about? Is it really only possible to give thanks when everything in life is going “according to plan?” Is it even possible to clasp your hands and give thanks in the valleys of life?
In Acts 16, we meet two men: Paul and Silas. They were neither on vacation nor in an enviable position. They were in jail. Because of their missionary outreach, they had been imprisoned but not without first receiving “many blows.” So there they lay, badly injured with their feet in the stocks. And what are these men doing in prison? We read that around midnight, “Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God.” In the entire context of the text, neither in the preceding nor in the subsequent verses, is there the slightest hint of discontent or even lament. The exact opposite happens. Despite great distress, they still find reason to thank God. Is such a thing even possible? We know these men were saved and had peace with God. They trusted the LORD and were certain “that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). Although they were totally uncertain of the outcome of their imprisonment and whether they would even survive, they trusted their God. They were convinced that He would “bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5). That is why they were able to thank God even in prison. This was the secret of their praise. Luke, who wrote the Book of Acts, also reports the conclusion of the event in the same chapter: the conversion of the jailer. Miraculously, God was able to use the imprisonment of Paul and Silas to show this man the way to faith. As the saying goes, “All’s well that ends well.” “This also comes from the LORD of hosts, Who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance” (Isaiah 28:29).
Everything looks dismal and desolate if we lose sight of God. Insecurity, fear, and doubt take over, driving us into a state of panic. If we are not careful, we will be overwhelmed, lose our foothold, joy, and even hope. Any thought of thankfulness vanishes. Dear brothers and sisters, our focus must be on the Lord, the LORD “Who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121). With respect to God, we know He has never made a mistake! He has promised us His support, strength, and grace for all that life brings. He works from a higher perspective that often seems completely hidden and incomprehensible to us. When I recognize who God is, I not only realize that He is worthy of my trust but also feel a deep sense of gratitude towards Him. I am safe in His hands. He will work all things for good. Yes, for good in my life.
I am privileged to give thanks. In a recent issue of a secular magazine, experts opined that giving thanks in fact increases our joy. In addition, the article indicated, “Gratitude is the antidote to negative emotions and the tendency to take things for granted.” We, as believers anchored in God, have even more reasons to be thankful.
“Nevertheless, give thanks!” is genuinely great advice. When we are thankful despite our circumstances, we not only benefit ourselves but are a good example for our families. And later, those who survive us will remember us and can attest that we were grateful people.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714) became well known for his Bible commentary. On a journey, he was assaulted, and his wallet was stolen. Reflecting on this, he said, “I am thankful that I have never been robbed before; secondly, though they took my wallet, they did not take my life; thirdly, though they took all my possessions, it wasn’t much; and fourthly, that I was the one robbed and was not the thief.” Don’t we feel much the same way? Growing older “robs” us of many things. We have had to part with our possessions, and our abilities aren’t what they once were. Let us learn from Matthew Henry and refuse to allow our circumstances to steal our positive attitude, joy, courage, sense of gratitude, and thankfulness.
Psalm 50:14 states, “Offer to God thanksgiving.” Gratitude is not only a biblical summons. It also draws us into a closer relationship with our heavenly Father. In addition, it frees us from anxiety and worry. To the Philippians (4:6), Paul writes, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” In this short verse, all of the salient points are addressed directly or indirectly. In any situation, when our prayer includes thanksgiving, it gives us a deep, inner peace.
A woman was seated in a physician’s waiting room. She looked sad and depressed, despondent and discouraged. While she waited, she noticed a plaque on the wall. She read the words, “Try giving thanks.” She started thinking about it. Suddenly, she stood up and quietly left the waiting room. She had found the solution to her situation.
“Nevertheless, be thankful!” You have to accept that thought and seriously consider it. Then these few words become a challenge. Gratitude is a personal choice. No one can decide for us. Whatever situation you face, choose gratitude. Then you will realize and experience that even in the dark valley the Lord is with you. His grace is sufficient, and the peace of God will fill your heart.
With David I will say, “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30).
Nevertheless, be thankful!