16-18 Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (MSG)
As we approach Thanksgiving, the above verses will probably appear in many sermons and daily devotional guides. Most Christians are familiar with this Scripture and many have memorized it in one translation or another. Memorizing Bible verses is a worthy practice, but even more valuable is living them out. How then, are we to be cheerful and thankful when things seem to be going from bad to worse?
I’ve heard some pastors explain that, although we are to give thanks IN everything, we aren’t expected to give thanks FOR everything that happens in our lives, and that joy and cheerfulness are not the same thing. Dictionary definitions would seem to support that as they equate joy with delight, gaiety, or bliss.
Surely we can’t be expected to experience delight in difficult circumstances.
And yet, Scripture clearly instructs us:
Always rejoice, constantly pray, in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 (NIV)
Just as God’s love is not the same as human love, the joy we have in Christ is not dependent upon our human emotions. We can and should feel continuous delight in the knowledge of our salvation.
But, we can’t be expected to be thankful for everything God allows in our lives, can we? The bad as well as the good?
I think the secret to being thankful FOR everything is a matter of perspective. First of all, we must trust that God has our best interests at heart. Whatever he allows us to experience is for our spiritual benefit. Beyond that, no matter how painful or difficult our situation may be, we can always be thankful that it isn’t worse. A brief look at the daily headlines will show just how many people are having a much harder time of it. When we are having trouble counting our blessings, we can thank God for all the bad things he has kept away.
This Thanksgiving we can pray all the time that God will fill our hearts with joy as we thank him for his unfailing love, no matter what.
This is the way God wants those who belong to Christ Jesus to live.