Being Thankful In All Circumstances

Maybe the smell of turkey is filling your house and your longing for delicious food is growing. Maybe you have to work on Thanksgiving and your longing to be home. Maybe you don’t have much of a home to go to or home doesn’t feel like home because of new life circumstances.

For some Thanksgiving might be easy. For others, it might be really, really hard.

Does the perfectness of our circumstances determine our requirement of giving thanks? No problems equals lots of gratitude and lots of problems equals no gratitude. That’s how it works, right? If my life is hard, I shouldn’t have to be thankful. Or, yeah, I’d be thankful too if I had what those people have.

The apostle Paul, someone pretty familiar with hardship, wrote, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

All circumstances…

Really?

I honestly didn’t feel like writing this today. Thankfulness isn’t the first thing on my heart. My grandma passed away three days ago and my heart still feels raw. Hanging out with my family today will be good, but it’s hard seeing the ones you love in pain.

How do I foster gratefulness in my heart in times like these?

I was reminded of a beautiful book I’d read a few years ago about this very topic. Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts recounts her journey out of empty, dark days and years of her life into a life of joy. Gratitude and thankfulness were what radically transformed her.

Looking for a soundbyte to share with you all, I came across this video of hers. Here are some quotes that stuck out to, encouraged, and challenged me today:

“Thanks is the highest form of thought. To think is to thank. If we aren’t a people known for thanking God, maybe we aren’t thinking enough of God.”

“Gratitude decreases selfishness, decreases greed, increases a focus on good which increases levels of trust, which altogether increases the necessary elements for societal flourishing.”

“Any deep healing in community will always be associated with deep gratitude.”

“You cannot force out the darkness. What you can do is reflect the light, amplify the light, magnify the light so more light drives out the darkness. To pay the dark most of our attention is to mostly praise the devil. To focus on the dark makes the dark seem stronger than the light, which is precisely why now is the time for a radical rising of gratitude, of light amplifiers. Gratitude amplifies goodness so that you can hear the grace of God. Gratitude amplifies the light of God so that you can see the face of God in the midst of the dark.”

“If you’re grateful, you’re not fearful.”

“Only when you finally give thanks, will you finally get to be joyful. Being joyful isn’t what makes you grateful. Being grateful is what makes you joyful.”

“You can’t be truly grateful and not be moved. Gratitude starts movements.”

“The people known by gratitude are the ones who can make God known.”

I encourage you to watch the whole video and read One Thousand Gifts. I’m going to take Ann’s advice and write three things I’m thankful for because I know I want my life to amplify the Light, to make God known.

  • I’m thankful for my grandmother’s life. Her gentleness, generosity, and unswerving commitment to what is right have taught me how to live. Her adoration and service of my grandfather, her children, and grandchildren, have taught me how to love.
  • I’m thankful for my family. My wonderful husband, who cheers for me, laughs with me, and prays for me, makes serving Jesus an adventure. My parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends, who have made me who I am with their love and sacrifice, make life so beautiful.
  • I’m thankful for the ability to create. Words typed on a screen, flowers arranged in vase, lessons given to students, they all breathe of life given by the Creator. I get to make and be a creation representing Grace.

Ann was right. Being grateful has made me joyful. How are you thankful today despite your circumstances?