Thanks in All Circumstances


Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.

Have you ever practiced the advice to write 3 (or 5, or 10, or whatever) things you’re grateful for at the end of each day? It’s said to boost your attitude, change your thought patterns, and help you see the good in life instead of everything that might go wrong.

I’m no pessimist, but even so I’ve never really gotten into it. Oh, I’ve tried before, but after about a week I begin to think: “I could be writing something so much more interesting right now. Where’s that character sheet I was working on…?” So in a hodgepodge of journals I have these intermittent lists of thankfulness mingled with scraps of character development and fiction snippets. (I pity anyone who tries to make sense of my notebooks after I’m dead.)

I also believe that these lists, while helpful, never brought me to meditate on the goodness of God. They were two separate worlds to me: life’s pleasant surprises didn’t mean God was good. They just meant I’d had a nice day. I also tended to watch for the other shoe to drop – not necessarily in the vein of karmic balance, but more the belief that God was always ready to teach me a hard lesson through pain or grief. And that certainly never felt “good”.

I’ve since left that philosophy behind, but in its place I’ve needed to instill a new way of thinking. What does it mean to be thankful to the Lord, beyond everyday circumstances? (And does it require more lists? ‘Cause I don’t know if I can take that kind of commitment.)

Paul said to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18), and he had the credentials to make such a command. Stoned, imprisoned, mocked, ship-wrecked – I could go on. Circumstantially, he had days where you’d laugh to hear him be grateful. And yet, he was.

He already knew what’s only recently been my personal lesson: you can always be thankful, because God’s got this. He is who He says He is. He is good. His love endures forever. Have you ever stopped to consider this love that sticks to you through everything? It blows my mind after giving it just two minutes’ thought.

And you know what? I stand by my creed: life’s pleasant surprises don’t mean that God is good. God’s character means that God is good. What does that mean when our years are a mix of happiness and difficulties? That kind of theology is still too deep for me to comprehend.

But until I figure it out, I’ll keep saying thank you, no matter what happens.