Today I am honored to have a guest post by Natalie Finch. To learn a little more about her, I will give a bit more introduction at the end of this post.
November is here and Thanksgiving break is just a few days away. All over the U.S.A., people prepare to celebrate one of the biggest feasts of the year. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 provides a simple, broader perspective on thankfulness. It says,
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
From this, we can see that people should cultivate gratitude–and not just in November and the holiday season. Giving thanks “in all circumstances” implies that there are circumstances that do not initially lead us towards gratitude. Sometimes this can be the blindness of prosperity. When one has three meals a day, clothes, a home, a family, and opportunities for education, he or she can forget that these common gifts are not actually common world-wide. When one is tainted by trial or loss, it is not generally thankfulness which is keenly felt.
This verse can be difficult to live by when difficulties or loss come, whether we live with “first world” blessings or not. How can one give thanks in every circumstance, no matter what? After all, the initial audience for this command was under heavy persecution from the Romans, slaughtered by the sword, tortured, imprisoned, and even a source of brutal entertainment to the Romans in the Colosseum. How could God have put these seemingly impossible expectations on His children in the early and modern church?
This question can be answered by taking a look at the first Thanksgiving. In 1621, the first Thanksgiving brought the Native Americans and the Pilgrims at Plymouth to a harvest feast. The Pilgrims had just left their homes and all that they owned in England. Many had left family members behind or lost them on the Mayflower; they had left the church and were trying to start fresh in a foreboding new land. Many of them didn’t know how to farm or build houses or survive the winter. What could they possibly have to be thankful for? How could God expect them to give thanks in such circumstances?
Despite the Pilgrims’ situation, God watched over them. The natives in the area taught them how to plant corn, helped them build houses, and kept them safe from other hostile tribes. In a way, the feast showed the Pilgrims’ gratefulness to their new friends. The Mayflower could have landed anywhere; the Native Americans the Pilgrims met could have fought against them; they may have landed somewhere barren; but instead, God ordained that they land at Plymouth. God always watches over his children, even when He seems distant.
He does sometimes allow the Devil and forces of evil to test us, as in the book of Job. God allowed Satan to take away Job’s children, crops, herds, servants, and everything he had. Why? In order to test Job’s faith. However, Job worshipped God even after he lost everything, and eventually God blessed His servant as He blesses all his children. Will you be a Job of this generation? Will you honor the name of the Most High through anything He allows in your life?
Although His blessings aren’t always in material form, they are always present. It is important to realize that trial and evil do not come from God, and that He always provides a way of escape for His children—Jesus! We never have to face a circumstance alone, something to be infinitely grateful for. We see this in the second half of the verse. If a circumstance is God’s will, then it is known by Him and has boundary lines set by Him. This is also something we see in Job’s story, but God’s preparation for an event goes beyond His omniscient knowledge of it. Being subject to God’s will also means to be availed of His grace, since He has the final word over all. Therefore, if God knows our cares and provides grace, it no longer seems like an unfair expectation to give thanks in all circumstances.
No matter the circumstance, God calls His children to give thanks and to show gratitude, and He always provides reasons to be grateful. The chief reasons for gratitude are His presence, His omniscience, and His grace in the midst of every circumstance. When God blesses you, thank Him, and when in trial, look for evidences of His grace and thank Him for them. When they’re hidden from view, thank Him for His presence, in which we can be confident because of Jesus Christ.
Natalie Finch, 16, first published this article in The Potter’s School Clay Magazine, an online magazine of commentary, news, essays, satire, interviews, cartoons, and discussion, earlier this month. She writes a column for the magazine once a month. Writing is a passion for this high school junior honors student, but she also loves singing, musical theater, reading, piano, coffee, and hanging out with her family. She and her three siblings have all been homeschooled and enjoy a rich relational connection. I have watched her spiritual growth expand over the course of her life and love going for coffee with her. She is one of my granddaughters and she hopes to pursue a career in writing after college.