“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 5:17-19, The Message).
The more traditional translations say to “give thanks in everything.” Note that it does not say to give thank FOR everything but IN everything. You don’t have to give thanks when sickness comes or when a loved one passes away or when natural disaster strikes. But you can give thanks that God can work even the worst of circumstances toward your good and His glory.
I had a thought as I was driving home from another Kairos Night of Worship. Often I give thanks after I get an answer to prayer or after an outcome resolves favorably. That’s all well and good. But what if I chose to be thankful BEFORE I got my answer? What if I blessed God in the middle of a trial when the outcome was still in doubt? What if I sang a doxology while I was still in the dark night of my soul?
There’s a popular worship song that says “Even when I don’t see it, You’re working, even when I don’t feel it, You’re working.” So maybe even though I don’t feel particularly grateful at the moment, I can still express thanksgiving. I can say the words while knowing their truth in my mind without feeling them in my heart because I know from experience how unreliable my feelings are while I also know how rock-steady God’s truth is. I can surrender my circumstances while I’m in the middle of them, knowing that God is working even then.