The first Bible verse that comes to mind when I think about being thankful is more than one Bible verse. It’s the passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Aren’t those great Bible verses? If we could apply that in our lives, wouldn’t we be better Christians? For sure! One of the verses that challenges me most is verse 18 “Give thanks in all circumstances.” I have to admit that “all circumstances” is a really difficult thing to do. When things don’t go my way, I’m often complaining and whining instead of giving thanks. God knew we would need this reminder to give thanks when we were going through tough times. It’s not easy, but it will change our perspective and ultimately change our hearts if we can learn to give thanks in all circumstances.
The best Biblical example of someone who endured more hardships than most of us can ever imagine was Job. Job was a blameless and upright man who had everything taken away. He did not sin. He said “The LORD gave. and the LORD has taken away; blessed by the name of the LORD.” Like Job we can learn that no matter what we go through in this life, God is in control.
Maybe we all haven’t experienced the suffering of Job, but I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t suffered heartbreak and loss at some point. It’s a part of life. I wasn’t necessarily giving thanks when I’ve lost a loved one or I wasn’t thankful for serious health problems I’ve had in the past, but it was during those times that I had to dig deeper in my faith, pray more, and be more spiritually minded. I was forced to focus on the big picture.
Some verses that have helped me see the bigger picture are 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” This life and any afflictions we are enduring are insignificant compared the grand scheme of eternity. It might not feel like it at the time, but if we can persevere, we can grow stronger spiritually. It’s hard to do, but if we allow ourselves to do it we can see the eternal purpose. When I look back on the suffering in my life, I see my faith was made stronger and for that I am thankful.
It reminds me of some more Bible verses in James. I bet you thought I’d mention James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above“, but it’s not what I was going to use since that’s what you expected. I’m trying to give you unexpected sources of gratitude.
That’s why I want you to read James 1: 2-4. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” If we can go through trials and still learn to count it all joy, then we are that much closer to our faith being made perfect. To remain faithful and steadfast is the goal. Being able to count it all joy is about as close as being able to give thanks as a person can get. My desire is to be someone who is unwavering in my faith! I don’t feel like I’m close, but I press on.
One more Biblical example is in the book of Ruth. We just completed a ladies Bible study at church over Ruth. I learned so much about Ruth and her character. She was loyal, kind, caring, hardworking, humble, and she had a heart of gratitude. Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, had suffered a great amount of loss. Naomi lost her husband and two sons (one of whom was Ruth’s husband). Her daugher-in-law Orpah went back to her native people, and Naomi was left with Ruth. Naomi’s loss tested her faith. She even became bitter. I hate to admit that sometimes I react more like Naomi when my faith is tested. Ultimately I find hope and redemption in the story of Ruth because despite the heartache, God was providentially at work in their lives. He provided a kinsman redeemer in Boaz. Boaz recognized Ruth for the noble woman that she was and married her, and they had Obed. They are even included in the genealogy of Christ. I can’t think of a greater honor. Even though Naomi and Ruth suffered so much as the book of Ruth begins, we can see by the end the book that God provided. In the end they both have grateful hearts for what the Lord has done in their lives.
A few finals thoughts on finding gratitude in unexpected places.
Our ability to be thankful changes when we acknowledge that this life and world we live in are temporary.
The root of true gratitude isn’t in what we think we are entitled to on this earth, it’s being appreciative of what we already have.
Ultimately a grateful heart comes from knowing we are unlovable creatures and God’s shown the ultimate love by sending his son as a sacrifice and making it possible for us to have eternal life.