“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5:18).” Wow, that’s easier said than done! No one is immune from the hard circumstances of life. Nor are we exempt from the tendency to focus on them or even be consumed by them. Yet, Paul has the audacity to write such words. And, frankly, it is a great way to find greater faith and joy in our journey with Christ. Yet, is it possible? How can we do it?
- Remember where you’ve been.
It’s often not until we look back on all we’ve been through, all the difficulties we’ve faced, that we remember that while there may still be some challenges ahead, God has indeed been at work. Many times, it is only in looking back at where we’ve been that we realize how much he has done for us and how blessed we are. Remembering the journey we’ve been on can help us be thankful people even when life is not perfect.
- Focus on that with which you’ve been blessed.
In those times when gratitude seems so elusive, we tend to lose our focus on the goodness of God. From forgiveness and peace, to family and friends, to our material possessions, we tend to have much more than we think. Take a walk through your home, look at what’s there, and thank your Father not only for what you see, but for what many of those things mean to you. Thank him for those special people in the photos displayed, for those things that were gifts to you that hold special meaning, for a place to call home, and for countless other things as you take your “walk of thanks.” It’s a great way to focus on what you have, not on what you don’t have.
- Be a blessing.
We need each other. Jesus talked about dying to live, serving instead of being served, and demonstrating our discipleship by our love for others. So, find someone who needs a reason to be thankful. You may be the very one whose touch in the life of another enables them to get even a glimpse of him. Helping someone else find gratitude can certainly help us be grateful.
- Allow thankfulness to become central to your thoughts.
We often neglect the fact that we can choose what we think about. Paul, in writing to the Philippians (4:6-9), reminds us of the kinds of things that dominate the thoughts of thankful people. There he encourages us to focus on those things that are good. He calls those things excellent and praiseworthy. He reminds us to pray with thanksgiving, telling God our needs without forgetting his goodness. And then his admonition ends with an exclamation point, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
It cannot be denied that it is sometimes difficult to feel thankful. Life can be hard, sometimes very hard. Yet, our focus, what we choose to think about, can transform our hearts and minds. And that transformation results in gratitude because it compels us to remember that God is good, his grace is amazing, and his love for us is extravagant.