". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


How Can We ‘Give Thanks in All Circumstances’? We Remember How Blessed We Are in Christ

May 18, 2024

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The call to “give thanks” is repeated in over 30 instances within the book of Psalms. 1 Chronicles, Philippians, Colossians, Hebrews, Isaiah, and Ephesians, to name a few, cry out the need to express thanks to our God. It’s a clear call. It seems easy enough to live out, right? And yet, I can’t help but wonder: how easy is it, really, to “give thanks in all circumstances”? Because I’ve come to find it’s far easier to be ungrateful.

It probably doesn’t feel easy to give thanks when you or someone you love is struck with illness. Gratitude isn’t often where we turn first when we’re rejected from a job we want or by a person we care about. Thankfulness feels impossible when we face loneliness, anxiety, depression, or stress, doesn’t it? Perhaps the poor wrestle with thankfulness, and the wealthy seldom consider it. Wars break out across the globe, people are starving, children are orphaned, women are widowed, politics are like cancer, and the world is full of numerous other variables that cause us to think: What is there to be grateful for?

I’ve read the stories where people are so sick of their affliction, they “walk away from their faith.” Many blame their problems on God; others are tired of waiting on Him to reveal a reason for their suffering. It’s a tragedy — an utter tragedy. And why is it so tragic? Because, really, believers have so much to be grateful for. It’s a shame how easily we gloss over our rich blessedness in Christ, and it’s my prayer that we can begin to understand just how blessed we really are. Especially when we think we have nothing to be thankful for.

Isaiah 53:5 proclaims, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” It’s a rich passage, yet it’s easy to neglect the proper probing it deserves. He was “pierced,” “crushed,” yet we receive “peace” and become “healed.” Just how profound this is may be what we forget to reflect on.

Whether it’s realized or not, the worst fate one could ever endure would be to be separated from Christ. Salvation is such a precious gift, and I’m afraid we often take it lightly. Because without it, we have no life, hope, peace, joy, or eternity in paradise. Life would become meaningless. All would be deprived of hope. Peace would be replaced with fear, and joy with depression. Our eternity, separate from Christ, would be spent in the fiery furnace. What grace that with salvation, we are spared from these miseries! What grace that with salvation, we have eternal life, hope, peace, and joy in Christ Jesus! Can you imagine living in this broken world without this hope and relationship with God? I certainly cannot. But, if even for a moment, Jesus did experience this.

On the cross, taking on the sin of the world, He lost the perfect union He always had with the Father from the beginning of time. How incomprehensibly devastating this is. We see Jesus ask His Father in the Gospel of Matthew to remove the cup from Him — the cup of God’s wrath He was to drink from. In Matthew 26, Jesus described His soul as “very sorrowful, even to death.” Our Lord “fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.’” But it’s no wonder He was distraught.

You see, Jesus could handle the mocking, the beatings, the scorn. He could be hated, and His death could be celebrated by those who rejected Him. But to lose His relationship with the Father — to face the fierce wrath of God Almighty — was a fate far worse than any other; a pain more searing than any pain; a loss graver than any loss. It’s no wonder Jesus asked for that cup to pass. It’s no wonder He was sorrowful. But beloved, what I am wondering is this: Why would He go through that for you and for me?

It doesn’t make any sense. Why would the only perfect, spotless man to ever walk the earth voluntarily sacrifice His life and face the worst fate conceivable for the sake of sinners who only fall short of God’s glory? Why did the Father, from before the foundation of the world, establish a plan to send His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him, may be gifted with eternal life? Why did Jesus face a punishment that we deserve, and do so in a way that ensures we will never, ever have to face it ourselves?

Well, Hebrews 12:2 answers that question: We look to “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” And what was that joy set before Him? It was the perfect will of a perfect, loving God. I don’t know why He did it, but it was God’s sovereign decree that Jesus would secure a people for Himself that would become co-heirs with Him in the Kingdom to come. How could this truth not evoke the most reverent gratitude?

When I think of this blessing, even just the singular blessing of being alive in Christ from now into eternity, my soul swells in praise. Suddenly, I see that we can “give thanks in all circumstances” because now, we are washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. There is nothing that can separate us from this love. “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” the Apostle Paul asked in Romans 8. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” (v. 33).

Though “we are being killed all the day long” by persecutors, calamities of a broken world, and temptation to sin, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (vv. 36-37). There is nothing “in all creation” that “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39b). And so, do you see? We can “give thanks in all circumstances” because there is not a single circumstance in which this truth is not relevant. No matter what we go through, it would befit us to fix our eyes on Christ, as Scripture calls us to do, because it’s in doing so that we realize we are continually blessed in Him. Regardless of our circumstances, we have received “a kingdom that cannot be shaken,” which means we can always “be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28).

But in addition to this blessing of salvation, which encompasses all of our being, it is steadfastly true that we do, indeed, serve a generous God. Does He not still provide our every need? Is He not faithful to be with us when we stumble? Does He not cause rain so that the earth is nourished? He has graciously crafted beauty all around in His creation for us to enjoy. He gifts us with the pleasures of art, music, food, and sweet fellowship. And so, my first encouragement, when tempted to wonder how we can be thankful, is to remember the cross — an unending fountain of blessing for those who hear and proclaim its message.

But secondly, I encourage you to remember that God, whether we always recognize it, is truly generous and rich in both grace and mercy. And He has in mind the eternal salvation of our soul — which is far grander than anything we’ll experience here on earth.

Pastor Charles Spurgeon put it well when he said of Christ: “As long as there is a vessel of grace not yet full to the brim, the oil shall not be stayed. He is a sun ever-shining; He is manna always falling round the camp; He is a rock in the desert, ever sending out streams of life from His smitten side; the rain of His grace is always dropping; the river of His bounty is ever-flowing, and the well-spring of His love is constantly overflowing. As the King can never die, so His grace can never fail.”

So, let us posture our hearts in continual gratitude, for our God is continuously loving, merciful, and gracious — a God who has secured our salvation forever.

Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.