“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”–1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
I have had to fight a gloomy mood all my life. Not surprisingly, that has made it difficult for me to understand the concept of joy. How can I be happy and upbeat all the time, when such rotten stuff keeps happening to me? Then I noticed the number of times scriptures say, “rejoice and be glad.”
I can understand being glad to get out of a cold rain into a warm building, even though the rain hasn’t stopped. I can understand how being glad to see a beautiful sunset, or flowers, or something can at least momentarily pull me out of a funk–so long as I make an effort to notice. So I decided that maybe making a point to be glad about things every day and remember what they were at the end of the day could lead me to a deeper understanding of joy. It does, when I remember to do it.
Continual prayer follows from practicing joy. I want to share my gladness with someone. I can at the very least share it with God, and if I find someone else to tell about it, then the telling is yet another way to praise God. Prayer means so much more than just, “gimme gimme gimme,” even if we ask for things for other people. Gratitude is a huge part of it.
So yes, I can give thanks in all circumstances. No matter how rotten a day is, something good happened. And even if I can’t think of anything, if I have some money in my pockets, my health, a place to live, enough to eat, or any of the other stuff I take for granted, I thereby have something to give thanks for.
This verse does not say to be thankful for all circumstances, just in all circumstances. But I have noticed that spirituality mature people have learned to give thanks for past troubles, and that the most spiritually mature people can even give thanks for present troubles. After all, God has promised ultimate deliverance, and that whatever bad stuff I live through will eventually benefit me, if only after Jesus returns.