1 Thessalonians 5: 12–24
12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hardamong you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil. 23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
I must confess that verse 18 of 1 Thessalonians chapter has rarely made sense to me, especially during my childhood. “Give thanks in all circumstances”? So I needed to be thankful for my family’s poverty? my very dark skin (colorism is real)? or knowing virtually nothing about my father? I have often struggled to accept the notion of being continually thankful because there are so many aspects of life that simply suck. Poverty sucks! The only people who find any redeeming qualities in poverty are those who have never lived it. There is nothing great about hunger, torn clothing, pest infested housing, or lack of utilities. Poverty is so bad that is has been proven to be an independent risk factor for shortening life. To make matters worse, poverty is not the only issue that negatively affects the human experience. Poverty doesn’t account for all deadly diseases, questionable work environments, infidelity and adultery, acts of violence, or natural disasters. In short, there is a lot in life for which no one sane should be thankful.
So was the Apostle Paul nuts? Maybe not in this instance. Should modern day Christians ignore 1 Thessalonians the same way we ignore most of the book of Leviticus? Absolutely not. To the contrary, I think 1Thessalonians 5:16-18 should be our motto. To be clear, I’m not known for my optimism or naivety. I value this scripture because of what it takes to be truly thankful. Being thankful isn’t so much about what is going on around us as it about what is going on within us. Do we have enough faith within us to believe in what God will do for us? Do we have enough trust within us to lean on God? Because perpetual gratitude also involves big picture thinking with a perspective that allows us to see the relativity of life and the tragedies associated with it. We shouldn’t let our individual experiences completely define us. As Christians, we must remember that we are created with purpose and that sometimes life isn’t about how things make us feel as much as it about what we fulfill. Living in slavery wasn’t a pleasant experience for Joseph but it did allow him to fulfill his purpose. I doubt fighting bears and lions while tending his father’s sheep was fun for David but it did help him fulfill his purpose.
Thus, as we pause this week to celebrate a day of Thanksgiving, let us all be grateful not only for what we have been through but also for what we can yet still experience and achieve.