Thanksgiving Living

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Spiritual Life


A Meditation

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:18-19, KJV

At one point or another in our lives, all of us have lived beneath our circumstances. At times, the sheer weight of life can “get us down.” I’ve felt that way, and I am sure you have too. The story is told of W.H. Griffith Thomas (1861-1924), a Bible teacher and theologian of a previous generation, who was walking down the street. Approaching a lady he asked her, “How are you faring today Madame?” to which question she replied, “Pretty well under the circumstances.” Thomas then responded, “What, may I ask, are you doing under the circumstances?”

The compound word “circum-stance” is interesting. It consists of a Latin word “circum” which means “around” and “about.” The word “stance” has a secondary meaning of “a mental or emotional position adopted with respect to something.” So what is our attitude toward the cloudy situations which life often presents to us? Do we live above the clouds as victors or beneath them as victims? How can we cope with the sometimes bleak and barren landscape of life?

The key to either living under or over circumstances lies, I believe, in the arena of faith. Foundational to healthy living is the belief that the sovereign God is in control of our lives, and that providentially He is working everything “together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NKJV). No matter what our circumstances, we can see the yellow sign over our lives, “GOD AT WORK.”  Amidst our fallen creation and painful world, He is providentially turning “immediate-bad” into “ultimate-good.” Therefore, on the highway called life, there are no accidents for God’s children . . . only incidents. This belief caused the non-conformist Puritan Thomas Watson (1620-1686) to ask:

Why so? Because God makes everything work for our good. God loves a thankful Christian. Job thanked God when he took all away: “The Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1.21). Many will thank God when He gives; Job thanks Him when He takes away, because he knew that God would work good out of it. We thank the physician, though he gives us a bitter medicine which makes us sick, because it is to make us well; we thank any man who does us a good turn; and shall we not be thankful to God, who makes everything work for good to us? [1]

At times, life appears to be an amazing maze with multiple-choice paths, deep valleys, confining corners, sharp turns, and dead ends. At times we must, by God’s grace, retrace our steps to try to find the right path. But no matter the road taken, we can be comforted to know that the Spirit is with us (Hebrews 13:5) and the Scriptures guide us (Psalm 119:105). Such faith determines our attitude toward circumstances, whether we will live under or above them. We can gain divine comfort not because God changes the circumstances without, though He may, but because He changes our attitudes within!

The Apostle Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks: for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18, NASB). J.B. Phillips translates the previous verse: Be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be. God’s will for us is to give thanks amidst all of our circumstances, whether we are surrounded by the blooms of spring, the flowers of summer, the colors of fall, or the bare thorns of winter. Research now indicates that an attitude of gratitude appears to be healthy for people, that “being thankful may help people actually feel better.” [2] But the reporter adds:

There’s a catch however: You have to say thanks more than just once a year. “If you don’t do it regularly, you’re not going to get the benefits,” said Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California-Riverside. “It’s kind of like if you went to the gym once a year. What would be the good of that?” [3]

In 1636, amid the darkness of the Thirty Years’ War, a German pastor, Martin Rinckart (1586-1649), is said to have buried over four thousand persons in one year. That averages out to be about 13 funerals per day. The countryside and his parish were ravaged by disease, death, and disaster. In the heart of the darkness of that distress, and with the cries of fear howling outside his window, he sat down and wrote these words of grace for his children:

Now thank we all our God, With heart and hands and voices, Who wondrous things hath done, In whom His world rejoices. Who, from our mother’s arms, Hath led us on our way / With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today. [4]

Pastor Rinckart understood that an attitude of love for and thankfulness to God would help him through the most devastating circumstances of his life and ministry. In lesser circumstances that we might find ourselves in–unemployment, economic recession, sickness, the death of a loved one, and so on–may we by faith grow to know that too.

[1] Thomas Watson, All Things for Good (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1663, Reprint): 62-63.
[2] Matt Sedensky, “Research: Giving Thanks is Healthy,” The Indianapolis Star, November 25, 2009, A9.
[3] Ibid.
[4] The Celebration Hymnal, Tom Fettke, Editor (Dallas, TX: Word Music / Integrity Music, 1997): 788.

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