‘Give thanks in all circumstances’

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Faith & Reflection

Thanksgiving weekend is behind us, but I don’t stands up to criminals think it’s too late to ponder the matter of thankfulness/gratitude.

Hans Selye (1907-1982), famous for his research in the area of stress, wrote that, “Among all the emotions, there is one which more than any other accounts for the absence or presence of stress in human relations: that is the feeling of gratitude.”

The Bible contains dozens of verses admonishing the reader to give thanks. A classic is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. It says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you …”

Someone once challenged me about this verse. Considering it to be impractical, if not impossible, he stated emphatically that, “No one can give thanks at all times.”

Scottish minister Alexander Whyte (1836-1921) would disagree. Whyte was known for his uplifting prayers of thanksgiving. He always found something to thank God for in his prayers.

One Sunday morning, the weather was extremely cold and stormy. Few turned out for church that morning, but one of them leaned over and whispered to another, “Certainly the preacher won’t think of anything for which to thank the Lord on a wretched day like this.”

To his surprise, Pastor Whyte began the service that morning by praying, “We thank Thee, O God, that it is not always like this.”

A close friend of mine would also disagree. He was vacationing in the Bahamas when he received word that his 35-year-old daughter had passed away suddenly. He cancelled his vacation and booked the first flight home.

When we spoke later, I recall being very impressed with how this man, though devastated by his loss, was very thankful to God for how the flight home and funeral arrangements had come together. He also expressed gratitude for the support of family and friends. It’s apparently both practical and possible to give thanks in all circumstances.

So … thankfulness can co-exist with difficult circumstances. Discouragement and discontent, however, cannot take root where there is true gratitude. There is an old legend about a man who discovered the barn where Satan kept his seeds ready to be sown in human hearts.

The man noticed that Satan had a bin filled with seeds of discouragement. When questioned, Satan reluctantly said that those seeds would grow everywhere, except for one place. “And where is that?” asked the man. Satan replied sadly, “In the heart of a thankful person.”

“Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.” (Psalm 107: 8-9)

Happy belated Thanksgiving!

—Pastor Ross Helgeton is the senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church.