“16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
These words from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians are words many of us have heard and are commonly read this time of year. And for many of us, it’s easy to do…when things are going our way.
But Paul doesn’t say to rejoice, pray, and give thanks when things are good, when we have what we need, and if we’re being honest, most of what we want as well. Paul says we are to do these things in all circumstances, and that means when things are bad as well as when they are good, when we have little of what we want and might even be missing some of what we need.
Growing up, we didn’t have much money, and I would often get discouraged when other kids my age had new baseball bats and cleats, and I had to borrow a bat or wear cleats that were worn.
Seeing my frustration, my dad sat me down and said something to me I’ll never forget.
“Son,” he said, “You can do one of two things. You can spend your time worrying about what you don’t have, or you can be thankful for and enjoy the things you do have.”
Every time I am tempted to focus on what I don’t have, every time I start becoming ungrateful, I’m reminded of that conversation, of those words.
So, I think this all comes down to one word, one thing we have to keep in order to “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.” That one thing is perspective.
Elsewhere, Paul writes to the Philippians, guiding them in how to keep proper perspective.
“8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
This Thanksgiving, everything may or may not be going your way. You may be full of joy, or facing the most difficult time in your life. The Scriptures do not teach us to ignore our pain or pretend our struggle isn’t valid. Rather, we are called to rejoice, to pray, and to give thanks through it all because there is still reason to rejoice, there is still that for which we can be thankful.
Keeping the proper perspective, focusing our thoughts on what is good and true, is the key to doing this. As you gather around your table that is full, of both food and family, give thanks to God. Or, as you struggle through a difficult season, look for those things for which you can still be thankful, enjoying what you do have instead of worrying about what you don’t.
God bless you this Thanksgiving, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, who gave us Himself, the thing for which we are the most thankful.