Attitude of Gratitude
by Cara Harrington
In 1 Thessalonians, we read these words: "Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV)
These certainly were not flippant words from Paul. These words came in a letter he wrote to the Church at Thessalonica with whom he had shared the gospel. He wanted to encourage them to be faithful even while they were persecuted and to encourage them to grow in their spiritual faith.
In Acts, we read that Paul and Silas had been in Philippi shortly before going to Thessalonica. They had encountered much opposition and had actually been flogged and put into prison. You may remember the story. Can you imagine what they must have been thinking and feeling? They believed they were to spread the gospel and were actively doing just that.... and where had that gotten them? Bruised, beaten, in chains, and in prison. They had a choice to make in their response. They could have whined and complained. They could have been overcome by despair. They could have said, "This is enough for me. This is too hard. I'm done." But in Acts, we read that Paul and Silas gave thanks. In the middle of their crisis, they rejoiced. They sang praises to our great God! Around midnight, there was a violent earthquake and everyone's chains became loose. The prison guard was terrified. Instead of running, Paul and Silas shared the gospel with the prison guard, and on that day the prison guard found salvation. The next day, Paul and Silas were released from prison and ordered to leave town.
This experience was very fresh on their minds as they made their way to the city of Thessalonica where they began to teach in the synagogue. They encountered opposition and persecution here, too, and left the city to avoid further danger to the people they had just led to faith.
So when Paul wrote this letter to these people, he was not flippantly saying "oh, and make sure you give thanks." Instead, he was recognizing and reminding the Thessalonians that God is ALWAYS worthy of our praise and thanksgiving no matter what is going on around us.
I recently came across a great quote by Ann Voskamp, Bible study teacher and writer. She said, "Gratitude isn't only a celebration when good things happen. Gratitude is a declaration that GOD IS GOOD no matter what happens."
Thanksgiving, or gratitude, is a choice. It is a declaration that God is good.
I recently attended two funerals. Both were for wonderful Christ-followers who dearly loved their families. Both endured battles with significant health issues. Both lived out this declaration that God is good even when... Their testimonies of giving thanks in ALL circumstances inspires me.
It's easy to get bogged down or overwhelmed by circumstances or struggles. 2020 certainly has not been an easy year for most. For many, it has included significant and sometimes life-altering challenges.
I don't know what you are facing today, but my reminder for all of us is this: gratitude is a choice. Yes, Paul told us to give thanks in all circumstances, but ultimately each one of us have a choice of how we will respond. Will you declare today that God is good no matter what happens?
Paul not only sent this message in his letter to the Thessalonians, but he also sent a very similar reminder to the Church at Philippi. (Remember Philippi? --it was the very city where he and Silas had been in chains.) In chapter 4 of Philippians, he wrote:
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:4-7, NIV)
I'm reminded of a children's song by Kathie HIll I learned at camp a long time ago. The chorus had these words: "Are you humbly grateful or grumbly hateful? What's your attitude? Do you grumble and groan or let it be known you're thankful for all God's done for you?"
The choice is yours.