In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Really, God? Because I didn’t order this chapter. How can I give thanks in bad circumstances?
I was a sudden young widow and single mom to 7. Grief was grueling, my children were hurting and I was facing a future without a husband I couldn’t begin to imagine.
Life stunk. My heart was shattered. Every task seemed hard. And I was overwhelmed.
Maybe, like me, you’ve questioned the Biblical mandate to give thanks at all times.
Do we thank God for cancer or drunk drivers or hurricanes that bring so much destruction?
As I studied this verse, I saw it doesn’t say we’re to give thanks FOR everything but that we’re to give thanks IN everything.
God is good and God does good and that doesn’t change even when circumstances are bad.
Giving thanks opens our eyes to all the good God is doing right in the midst of the hard.
And boy, how we need to see good when life feels bad.
It was only when I cracked open a journal and started to give daily thanks, that I saw all the good God was doing in me and around me.
Maybe one of the reasons God mandates it is so that we will get our eyes off our circumstances and on Him, so that we will see He is ruling even in the hard, and that He is personally caring for us there too.
Gratitude is a choice we make to look for good in every situation.
Giving thanks in all things might not change the situation, but it will always change us in the situation.
My friend, Kellie Haddock, saw the power of gratitude in a hard situation.
On an ordinary day, after an ordinary meal with family, she and her husband were traveling home with their brand new 14-week-old, Eli, in his car seat. She says the sun was shining, they were singing and dancing in the car when —-
That’s the last she remembers. She now knows another car going more than 100 mph went airborne over the median and landed on their car, smashing it to 1″ above Eli’s car seat.
Kellie and Eli were air lifted to the hospital; her husband killed on impact. But in that horrific situation, God’s goodness was clear. Kellie had survived with no injuries defying any physical explanation for survival.
Baby Eli remained in critical car. He’d suffered significant brain injury, with oxygen deprivation, seizures and multiple problems. After three days of not leaving his bedside, the PICU nurses urged Kellie to go home to shower and eat.
Just as she arrived at her in-laws, she got the phone call from doctors she’d been waiting for. After all the tests, the prognosis was in: if Eli lived, he would likely never walk, talk or show emotion.
“My heart broke again in a million pieces,” Kellie recalled. Kellie said it was “the lowest point of my life. I mean I was at the bottom of rock bottom.”
The house was filled with family and friends and Kellie relayed the gut-wrenching news. Her pastor gathered the group and asked them to speak out loud what they knew to be true of God.
So altogether, a chorus of thanks and praise went up from 50 of Kellie’s closest family and friends:
God is good.
God is trustworthy.
God loves with an everlasting love.
God is on the throne.
Kellie says there was no formal prayer asking God to heal; only spoken praise and the powerful presence of God.
An hour later, as she re-entered the PICU, Eli’s nurse ran to her. They’d been looking all over for her. Eli had woken up, was alert and active and had already taken four bottles. The only cut he’d sustained in the accident was gone and less than a week later, he was discharged to home.
Kellie had chosen to give thanks in bad circumstances. She chose gratitude before God ever brought the miracle.
Giving God thanks in bad circumstances doesn’t always change the circumstance, but it always changes us in the circumstance.
“There is always something for which to give thanks; even on the darkest day there are blessings to count. We must remember that if we face the sun the shadows will fall behind us but if we turn our backs on the sun all the shadows will be in front.” William Barclay
Want to go deeper to cultivate a heart of gratitude? I created a 30-day Gratitude Bible Reading Plan subscribers can access here.