The Bible makes a statement that, at first glance, seems like an impossible request. This particular verse is penned by the apostle Paul as a part of a letter he’s writing to the church at Thessalonica. He says to the folks there, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Surely he’s got to be kidding! Or, perhaps he’s just delusional!
Give thanks in all circumstances? How am I thankful for the Ebola virus? How does one manufacture thanksgiving out of the events surrounding Marysville-Pilchuck High School? Can thanksgiving truly permeate my soul when I consider the millions of Christians being persecuted for their faith? When I witness the horrific acts upon journalists and other captives in the Middle East, can I truly be thankful?
I’m guessing it’s just another archaic and “out of step” verse in the Bible. Or, could it be that what’s required to see the validity of this request is simply a change in my perspective?
Maybe what’s required to truly be thankful in all things is a simple reorientation of my perspective from one that is worldly and material to one that lives for something more than this world can give; something more eternal?
British author and theologian C.S. Lewis said something very similar. Lewis is quoted as having said, “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is ‘good,’ because it is good, if ‘bad’ because it works in us patience, humility and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country” (emphasis mine).
In other words, we can give thanks for all things because we’re aware of the fact that due to what Christ has done for us, this world, with its murders, its illness, its brokenness, is temporal. There is one who will usher in a kingdom where “…death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain…” (Revelation 21:4).
So my thankfulness is not so much for the bad and the deranged, but for the temporal nature of life that is so permeated by fallen-ness.
So, this Thanksgiving, change your perspective. Put on lenses that see beyond the temporal and be thankful for what IS temporal, because it is temporal! And, be thankful for that which is not; for that which is eternal!