In everything give thanks
by Carol Seiler, Major –
“In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus to you.”
I Thessalonians 5:18
This verse catches me short on occasion, I must admit—and I think that requires some confession and some explanation and even some soul-searching.
First, I need to confess—and maybe you will share some bond with me in that. There are circumstances during the day when “thanks” doesn’t jump to mind—when crowded freeways make me late, when there is irreversible damage to possessions that now have to be replaced.
There are personal struggles I don’t feel particularly thankful about—when I disappoint people and need to ask for their pardon, or when rude or even mean-spiritedness seeps into a conversation or relationship. There are physical issues that have the power to quickly scratch a civil veneer—when my body aches with fatigue, hunger and irritability; when serious illness strikes someone and it seems an unnecessary waste of life.
There are community issues that bring us all to our knees; thankfulness for not being part of the damage is shamefully shallow and seems out of place when so many have lost their homes and livelihoods, as happened in the recent Southern California fires.
For most of us, I suspect, thankfulness has been linked to appreciation for things, actions and circumstances that enhance our lives. Thankfulness is related more to “count your many blessings” than to be thankful you have faith that God is in charge of this world and your life. Even a change in tone using the word “thanks” can actually convey quickly that the last thing you are thankful for is what just transpired.
Reading, then, that it is the will of God in Christ for me to give thanks in everything is something that needs to be grappled with. “In everything” may be the key phrase. It is not “for everything.” It does not appear that I have to stretch or spin all the events that happen to find the silver lining of thankfulness.
That means that each event or circumstance of life may not have to be interpreted as a gift to be accepted or lesson to be learned. In saying that, I am not negating that some events are gifts and some events are lessons—but that filtering our thankfulness “for” these things puts a tension before us.
What if we focused on the phrase “in everything”? Then, God’s will for us begins to unfold and make more sense. The giving of thanks can happen in the context of our situation and our relationship with God in spite of the physical or emotional circumstances. It becomes more of an act of worship, of coming into the presence of God even with our questions and concerns, our anguish and our joys.
The condition of thankfulness then changes from tracking and listing benefits of our earthly interactions with things and people, to a condition of being in relation to our maker, a spiritual interaction, which inevitably impacts our earthly transactions. It seems then that the phrase “for this is the will of God” makes more sense. Then this phrase can fit a circumstance that is not a “western world” context where tangible blessings could easily slide into a measure of the relative favor of God.
The soul-searching then takes us along the road of resting in a condition of “giving thanks.” Coming into the presence of God and allowing him to change the temptation to put our list before him. To grapple with the awesome meaning of being “in everything” with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…not being alone, abandoned or without meaning…not being condemned for full measure deserved…for being reconciled by the blood of Christ…for being in a relationship that breathes hope, joy, love, grace and mercy…This might be harder, but my sense is that if this aspect of God’s will for me can become an aspect of my spiritual life, then I will be authentic and human but on the path to a deeper holiness, a closer likeness to the image of Christ.
May the will of God that “in everything” you know his presence and give thanks, be especially real this year.