GIVING THANKS IN TOUGH TIMES
1 Thessalonians 5:18
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
In 1943 the American painter Norman Rockwell completed a series of four paintings that have become among the most enduring images in American life. They were painted to depicted the four freedoms with which Franklin Roosevelt closed his State of the Union Address on January 6th, 1941 – Freedom to Worship, Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Speech and this one, Freedom from Want.
It is this painting, which perhaps more than any other, captures the spirit of an American Thanksgiving. In the picture, we see a family gathered. Perhaps some have traveled great distances filled with joy at being together again. Multiple conversations are taking place – an uncle telling a story, two sisters catching up, grandchildren taking it all in. Grandmother is setting the turkey on the table and grandfather will begin carving the turkey as the plates are filled with loads of wonderful holiday food. There are few people whose heart is not warmed by Rockwell’s image. The picture tells a story. A story about what it is to be blessed and to be thankful for that blessing.
There is an ancient reference to giving thanks. It comes toward the end of one of the Apostle Paul’s letters – a letter he wrote to a church that he helped to start. His encouragement to give thanks comes embedded in a series of other instructions. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 he writes:
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Paul would tell us that first we are to give thanks when times are good. When God’s blessings come we need to give him thanks. Giving thanks in good times is important. For if we do not pause from time-to-time to give thanks for God’s blessings, we risk becoming selfish and ungrateful people. We will find ourselves among those who receive good things but are unwilling to show even the least bit of gratitude for what we have been given. And so on Thursday, we, like those in homes across American, will pause to offer thanks to God for the ways in which he blessed us in the year we are about to complete.
GIVE THANKS WHEN TIMES ARE DIFFICULT…
Together we are approaching a very unique Thanksgiving. The year 2020 has been chaotic and volatile, and for many it may be hard to find things for which to be thankful.
Does Paul really mean “give thanks in all circumstances”? In every situation? For all things? It’s enough to make you want to ask Paul, “Are you kidding?” You can’t really mean this. Is Paul asking us to do the impossible? Can we really face all of our circumstances and give thanks? I think the underlying question is this: Does our Christian faith work?
Paul wrote this letter to a community who wondered if their new faith was really worth it. In his letter, he wrote to clarify his message as well as provide them with comfort, guidance and the encouragement to carry on. In the midst of their current reality, he challenged them to a set of inner attitudes and outer actions that should characterized their response to life’s circumstances. Perhaps his words can encourage us to be thankful in tough times.
What Paul is talking about is giving thanks as an expression of trust in God’s care even if our present circumstances are not what we hoped. He encourages us to recognize God’s goodness both in His current and future provision. He wants our thanks not to be governed by circumstances but by our confidence in God!
As believers, we know that God meets us in our time of need and works His good in and through our circumstances. Thankfulness provides perspective on life because it turns our attention toward God. In all of this, God is glorified because others can see our faith at work!
Martin Rinkart was a Lutheran pastor during Europe’s Thirty Years’ War. At one point the Swedish army surrounded the city and famine and plague were rampant. 800 homes were destroyed and people were dying everywhere. A number of the pastors died as well and Rinkart was the only one left – doing 50 funerals a day. Rinkart eventually intervened with the army’s general for the people. When the war was over, Rinkart wrote the hymn for a celebration service – a hymn of abiding trust and gratitude toward God.
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mother’s arms, has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
I pray you and your family experience the peace and contentment that comes from abiding in Him!
From our family to yours, we wish you a Happy “Thanks” giving!
Mike & Trisha, Heather & Brandon, Michael & Kaitlin, Addison Olivia, Mack Alexander, Beckham Grey and Peayton James