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Give Thanks in Everything

Why this tough but life-giving command can change your entire outlook.

By Charles F. Stanley

 

Reading the Bible isn’t always easy.

If you’ve ever thought those words but were embarrassed to speak them, you’re not alone. Sure, there’s plenty within Scripture that we comprehend without much difficulty. But at times we come across a passage that baffles us—or worse, makes us feel angry or annoyed. Sometimes it’s because we simply don’t understand what the Lord is saying through the text. But often the reason for our discomfort is that we don’t like what we’re reading. It’s easier to ignore those verses and move on to more appealing topics than to hash it out with God and do what He says. Reading the Bible is hard because, in the end, it challenges us to change.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 is one of those verses that can really get under your skin: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” But what about those difficult and painful situations? Being grateful for suffering seems to make no sense.

If I were writing Scripture, I would say, “In most things give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It’s easy to be grateful for the good things in life—a newborn baby, a raise, a new house, or encouraging news from the doctor. But what if you lose your job, discover your child is on drugs, or are told by the doctor that you have only have six months to live? How can God expect you to be grateful then?

I faced this dilemma some time ago when I hurt my shoulder and experienced excruciating pain. I read this verse and told the Lord, “I know You said this, but it’s not reasonable when I’m hurting so badly. I just don’t feel thankful.” But then I noticed that it didn’t say, In everything give thanks when you feel like it. This command has nothing to do with feelings. It’s a choice to do what God says. Whenever He gives us a command in the Bible, it’s for our benefit.

Gratitude impacts every area of our lives.

By giving us the command to always give thanks, God is not rubbing salt in a wound or calling us to set aside reason. He knows that being thankful in all circumstances has a powerful impact on every area of our Christian life. Here are ten lessons I’ve learned:

1. Gratitude keeps us continually aware that the Lord is close by.Even though gratefulness doesn’t come naturally in difficult circumstances, a decision to thank God for walking with us through life makes us more sensitive to His comforting presence.

2. It motivates us to look for His purpose in our circumstance. Knowing that the Lord allows hurt and trouble for His good purposes takes the edge off the pain. Even if we don’t understand why we’re going through suffering, we can thank God because we know that in His time, He’ll work it all for good. In the meantime, we can rest in the knowledge that He’s using every hardship to transform us into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29).

3. Thanksgiving helps bring our will into submission to God.When the situation we’re experiencing is the last thing we’d ever want, thanking the Lord is a giant step toward being able to follow Christ’s example and say, “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Gratitude helps us acknowledge that God’s will is best, even if it’s hard; in that way, we are able to release our hold on what we want. Although the circumstances may remain the same, submission changes our heart.

4. It reminds us of our continual dependence upon the Lord. Pride, adequacy, and independence evaporate whenever we’re trapped in a situation that leaves us helpless and hopeless. If there’s no way out, thanking God for His control over all things reminds us that He alone is our strength.

5. Thankfulness is an essential ingredient for joy.There’s no way to “rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16) without giving thanks in everything (v. 18). That’s why ungrateful people are so grumpy. Joy is an inner sense of contentment, which flows from a deep assurance that all God’s purposes are good and He’s in complete control of every situation. With that kind of supernatural joy, it’s easy to be thankful.

6. A grateful attitude strengthens our witness to unbelievers.The world is filled with people who are angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed with the difficulties of life. But a believer with a grateful attitude is like a light shining in a dark place. The people around you will want to know why you don’t grumble and complain the way everyone else does. Then you can tell them about your amazing Savior.

7. Thanking God focuses our attention on Him rather than our circumstances. The key to a grateful heart begins with understanding the Lord’s character because knowing His awesome attributes motivates trust and gratitude. He knows exactly what you’re going through, loves you unconditionally, and understands you perfectly. When you thank Him in tough times, He gets bigger, and the circumstances become smaller.

8. Gratitude gives us eternal perspective. The apostle Paul is an amazing example of a man who suffered extreme hardship yet remained thankful. That’s because he was able to see life from God’s perspective. In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, he says our present suffering is “momentary light affliction.” If you’re going through a really hard time, those words may sound ridiculous. Maybe you’ve been dealing with pain your entire life, or a difficult trial has dragged on for decades. It hardly seems momentary or light.

But Paul is comparing our situations here on earth with what’s awaiting us in eternity. For him, a 40-year stretch of pain and hardship was no match for the “eternal weight of glory” awaiting him (2 Cor. 4:17). What an amazing thought—your present pain has the potential to produce incomparable glory for you in heaven. Now that’s a big reason to thank God!

9. When we’re wearied by our circumstances, thanksgiving energizes us. Most of us can handle short trials, but if they continue for a long period of time, the emotional and physical strain is exhausting. Should ongoing illness, unresolved relational problems, or continued financial pressures become more than we can bear, it’s time to start thanking God because He has promised to give strength to the weary (Isaiah 40:29). He’ll release His supernatural energy within us so we can patiently endure the trial and come out victorious on the other side.

10. Gratitude transforms anxiety into peace, which passes all understanding (Phil. 4:6-7). I learned this principle through a very difficult experience. When I was feeling anxious about the situation, I discovered that complaining, getting angry, and arguing with God didn’t change my circumstances. Finally, in desperation, I began thanking Him. Only then did I receive His incomprehensible peace. My situation didn’t change for quite a while, but God’s peace guarded my heart all the way through that trying time.

What will you choose?

The choice isn’t always easy. Most of the time, we’d rather get out of difficulties than thank God through them. But have you ever considered that He may actually want you to stay in a painful situation for a time? I know this may not sound like something a loving God would ever do, but remember, His goal is to do what is best for you, not what’s comfortable, convenient, and enjoyable.

The Lord’s purposes for your life extend beyond your days on earth. He’s working for your eternal good. Begin thanking God today, in whatever circumstance you find yourself. After all, what’s the alternative—bitterness, resentment, and grumbling? God made you for something far better: eternal, sustaining joy. The transformation starts with two simple, small words offered from the heart: thank You.

Say them over and over. And then say them again. Your joy will be radiant—a light shining in a dark and desperate world.

 

 

Do You Know God?

While practicing gratitude can benefit anyone, it won't transform you—unless you have a relationship with the Giver of life. Learn how to take the first step here.

Copyright 2014 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.


22 comments
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  • December 16, 2014 06:15 AM

    by

    Thank you very much Dr Stanley. The message is so inspiring. What a wonderful message that i have come across at the end of the year. Just the right teaching to be grateful to the Lord for everything. I am going to reproduce this inspiring teaching at a prayer meeting that i am scheduled to speak in a couple of days. Thank you once again and God bless you and your ministry.
  • November 23, 2014 12:34 PM

    by

    Thank you Dr. Stanley. It made ne sit down and write all that I need to be thankful for and my diary ran into four pages!! Thank you Jesus!
  • November 23, 2014 10:54 AM

    by

    This message changed my life in an instant! !!!
  • October 30, 2014 10:23 AM

    by

    Great article. Very inspiring, reviving & encouraging. God bless you.
  • September 29, 2014 12:07 PM

    by

    Thank you i have been blessed
  • November 01, 2013 06:38 AM

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    I am blessed!
  • November 25, 2012 11:28 PM

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    God is good all the time...Thank you LORD for my suffereng...
  • November 22, 2012 10:18 AM

    by

    It is always amazing to me how God puts the right message, person, and thought in my path when I am going through a trial. Your teaching on Giving Thanks in the missed of a trial or adversity is exactly what I needed today. You are correct, it is not easy giving Thanks for the pain, discomfort, and what almost always seems to be an unfair situation of your trial, but it sure does make my pain more bearable. As I read the lesson 8 and 9 I was overcome with joy and peace regarding my present trial. Your teaching gave me an elated feeling and prespective, that I will read again and again as I make my way through this very "momentary and ligh affliction"!
  • November 18, 2012 04:19 PM

    by

    Great article.it bless me. thank u sir.
  • November 18, 2012 10:26 AM

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    My church pastor has been teaching about rejoicing during suffering and tribulation. I have gotten to the point where I can thank God for past trials, but I am still having a hard time rejoicing in present trials. This article really helped me to see the value in giving thanks through the hard times. God bless you and your ministry.
  • November 13, 2012 12:54 AM

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    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. The idea that we must be grateful about everything even the tough situations, has been very helpful to me. I was always very grateful about the blessings He bestowed upon me. But was very worrisome when bad situations arrived in my life. Having this new outlook on gratitude is life changing. Now I understand that God has a plan and for me to worry is to take what ever is wrong out of His hands to fix. This was a very empowering article, thanks.
  • November 09, 2012 03:26 AM

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    Today, I received a message from the HRD of a government agency about the job application, and I received a negative result. Although I told myself God has a purpose on this result, there's still a "painful" tinge in my heart. Then I decided to open your website, and I cried with this article....yes...it's for me....God has spoken to me personally. Thank you for being God's instrument in making me realize how to be TRULY THANKFUL IN EVERYTHING. To GOD be all glory and honor.
    Mica
  • November 08, 2012 05:55 PM

    by

    I've been following in touch for seven years now. From incarceration to freedom and now through Seminary. I thank god for your anointing. Now through the most trialing time of my life the gravity of suffering touching almost every area of me meanwhile demanding spirituality. Once again In Touch and on time. Your knife is sharp I stand provoked to give thanks...
  • November 08, 2012 11:23 AM

    by

    I too am reading this after the election. It has given me a different perspective. Not only will I give thanks for how the election turned out, but also remember to pray for those in authority.
  • November 07, 2012 12:30 PM

    by

    I just read this article this morning after the election, when I am low and wondering why God allowed the results. I have to remenber that
    God is in control of every circumstances. I still have to thank Him, that God thoughts and ways are higher than mine. I'm to refocus on God and who He is. Thank You.
  • November 05, 2012 09:40 PM

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    This article enlightened us to be really thankful to the sovereign God who gives everything to us. He may have allowed us to suffer sometimes but it's all for a good reason. I am a benefactor of trials in life but the more you get used to it being with the Lord always there seem to be no big problem as the Lord is a lot bigger than our difficulties, hardship & adversities in life. Always consider our Lord's presence in everything that is happening in our life and you'll come out as a winner. I feel blessed and very, very thankful for being a part of God's family, as I never consider myself then in my old life to be one but His loving presence makes me feel that God really loves me and cares for me....now I am extending His love to the very least of my brothers and sisters who may have known God but never believe in His existence and faithfulness. It's good to know that we are all created for this purpose to continuously "thank Him" for this good life and in the life far beyond our imagination...it's all because of His grace that we may have an eternal life.
  • November 05, 2012 07:45 PM

    by

    Praise God for His thoughts,a diffent view.thank u so much Sir.
  • November 05, 2012 10:15 AM

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    Amen Amen for this encouraging words.
  • November 05, 2012 08:32 AM

    by

    Inspiring. Thank you.
  • November 03, 2012 04:27 PM

    by

    Thank you so much for this reminder of the faithfulness of our holy God. He will never let the righteous be utterly cast down by their trials because he supports them with his hand, and he rewards them with peace. I am in the midst of the hardest trial of my life, yet I am utterly grateful to God because he sustains me daily as he shapes me and forms me into someone he can use in his service. I know I have the victory already because he is faithful to work all for good for those who love him. So, for now, I give great thanks and praise, and I look for the day when I will see him face to face. Thank you for this and so many other lessons that have made known his wonderful grace.
    T
  • November 02, 2012 04:35 PM

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    I am thankful for getting to know Jesus Christ at a young age. I am thankful for all the adversities he got me thought. I am thankful for all the delicious food god has allowed me to eat. I am thankful for the great health god has allowed me to obtain. I am thankful for Marilyn, even though she is gone. And i pray to god that he allows me to become a wise man as i get older. But most importantly i am thankful for my God fearing Mother. Maria. Who has been a great inspiration for me to continue in my walk with Christ. God is good all the time, and all the time, God is Great.
  • November 01, 2012 10:24 AM

    by

    Thank you Dr. Stanley. I have been very sad lately regarding a friendship. God has allowed me to see what part I've played in it and where I've been wrong. This article has helped me tremendously. I'm realizing how much my holy, loving Father has compassion with me and is intimiately involved with the things that matter to my heart, even when my own sinful nature has brought me suffering. His faithfulness truly is higher than the heavens. Thank you for reminding me of these promises.

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