God provides for all our needs, but do we remember to thank him in all circumstances?
I specifically thanked God for our shower.
I don’t know that I’d ever done that before. Our shower is actually pretty small, and our house is 50 years old, so it’s not a fancy shower. But I thanked God for it. Why?
It’s because this past summer we stayed for several days at a vacation rental home, and its shower was tiny! Maybe 18″ x 20″? One time I dropped something, and the shower stall was so tight, I couldn’t bend down to pick it up. I had to turn off the shower, open the door, and step out so that I could retrieve it. After we returned home, the first time I stepped into our rather small shower, it felt spacious! I thanked God for our shower!
Is thankfulness part of our routine? God wants it to be. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). This verse makes it clear that giving thanks is part of God’s will for our lives.
Did you notice how often God wants us to give thanks? He says “in all circumstances”! Oh, wow, I hang my head in shame as I think about the various ways I’ve failed in that. For example, this past year the transmission in our minivan failed, and because it was an older van, it wasn’t worth fixing it. We had planned to drive that vehicle for several more years; instead, we had to get a different vehicle, which stretched us financially. Did I thank God for it? I hate to say it, but I don’t remember “giving thanks” being my reaction. Frustration? Yes. Some nervousness about finances? Yes. Giving thanks? Unfortunately, no.
One of my favorite Bible accounts regarding thanksgiving is found in John chapter 6, where Jesus feeds the five thousand. (Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record it too.) Just before, Jesus had been trying to get some alone time, but the crowds had caught wind of it and followed him. Jesus had compassion on them, so instead of getting his alone time, he spends the whole day healing the sick and teaching.
As the day wanes, he tells the disciples to give the crowds something to eat. Eventually, they come to Jesus with five barley loaves and two fish, a typical lunch for a poorer person.
What probably doesn’t leap off the page for us is the word barley. Apparently in those days barley was considered an inferior food, fit more for animals than for humans. Alfred Edersheim writes, “Indeed, barley-bread was, almost proverbially, the meanest. Hence, as the Mishnah [a collection of Jewish oral traditions] puts it, while all other meat-offerings were of wheat, that brought by the woman accused of adultery was to be of barley, because (so R. Gamaliel puts it), ‘as her deed is that of animals, so her offering is also of the food of animals’ ”(The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, pp. 681,682). Wow!
So it’s near the end of this long, tiring day. Jesus hasn’t gotten the alone time he’d wanted; instead, he had poured himself into the people, serving them. And at the end of the day? He’s going to get a meal of barley bread. Really?! Where’s the steak? Or at least a good burger? This is the Savior of the world, and he’s going to be eating barley bread?!
And what does Jesus do? He looks up to heaven . . . and gives thanks for it. He thanks God for this meal, which is more fit for animals than for humans! “Give thanks in all circumstances.” By giving thanks, Jesus is following the will of his Father perfectly. Indeed, he is doing part of his saving work for you and for me!
For what reasons might God want us to thank him in all circumstances? Let’s first remember that it’s not for God’s sake. God isn’t so petty that he demands we thank him for things.
Giving thanks leads us to reflect on God’s faithfulness, God’s power, and God’s provision.
Instead, God wants us to be thankful in all circumstances because we will be blessed as we do so. In other words, God urges us to be thankful because he loves us, because he wants to bless us!
When you give thanks, what happens? I’d suggest that giving thanks leads us to reflect on God’s faithfulness, God’s power, and God’s provision.
When I thank God for the meal I have today, I’m subtly reminded that God fed me yesterday and the day before that and the day before that too. Has God been faithful to me? Sure, he has! Does God have the ability to feed me tomorrow too? Of course, he does! What attitudes does that build in me? Confidence? Humility? Gratitude? Joy? All those and even more? Sure! And who gets blessed? I get blessed! And so do the people around me, because they’re blessed when I display those God-worked attitudes. “Give thanks in all circumstances.”
But what about during those tough times, like when the transmission drops out of the minivan?
Yes, there are ways to thank God then too:
- “Thank you, God, that it didn’t break down while I was traveling at a high rate of speed, endangering me and my family.”
- “Thank you, God, that it didn’t break down while I was in heavy traffic; others could have been hurt if that had happened.”
- “Thank you, God, that it didn’t break down earlier; you blessed us so that the van ran well for several years after we bought it.”
Even as I write those things, I feel better about it. As you thank God in tough times, you’ll likely feel better about it too. “Give thanks in all circumstances.”
Author: Thomas Kock
Volume 110, Number 11
Issue: November 2023