The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
What does giving thanks in everything mean? It means give thanks for the good things and for the things that are less than good, trusting that God is working all bad things together for good (Romans 8:28).
Permit me to focus on the first part of giving thanks: thanking God for the good in our lives.
Sadly, some neglect giving thanks for the good things. Think of the 10 lepers that Jesus healed. “While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine--where are they?’” (Luke 17:11-17).
Jesus healed all of them but only one returned to give thanks. Though miraculously cleansed of disease and delivered from social disgrace, nine of them dart off without yelling back, “Hey Jesus, thanks!” How sad that “men will be… ungrateful” (2 Timothy 3:2). “For even though they knew God, they did not… give thanks” (Romans 1:21).
How often do we give thanks for the good things? Most of us have health, freedom, employment, insurance, homes, cars, TVs, food, clothing, friends, family, entertainment, recreation, ministry, Bibles, and the list goes on. Did I say the list goes on? Yet, do we regularly give thanks to God? Or, do we feel we deserve what we do have and fixate on what we don’t have?
For example, many wives share with me their list of negatives about their husbands. They see what their husbands lack. Because of this tendency to fixate on what they don’t have, I challenge these wives to write down all the positive things they see in their husbands and thank God for what they do have. A wife wrote, “Every day I am writing one thing I am thankful for about my husband, and then most days sharing it with him as an encouragement. I want to set my mind on my husband’s good points and am praying that God will restore (our) desire and love…”
Another wife had been married 40 years. She writes one night she felt God saying to her: “I want you to imagine you are a giant highlighter and I want you to highlight all those things that are honorable and true about your husband. See your husband through My eyes.” She got up and started writing, filling pages with why she respected her husband and was thankful for him. “God filled me with His love for my husband and shone his light into our relationship.” In obeying God’s universal will about giving thanks, she encountered the love of God in her heart.
Giving thanks applies to all relationships! Listen to what this young man said about his girlfriend: “I realized that, if instead of focusing on the one area she lacks, I began to think and dwell on all the great and lovely things I find attractive about her, I see myself being very satisfied. I even thought, ‘What if I was married to this woman and coming home to her every day?’ My general sense and feeling was, yes, that is something I can do and would probably look forward to. I need to give thanks for her many positive qualities.” (I received word while writing this that he just proposed to her!)
For sure, when we give thanks for what we do have, acting on 1 Thessalonians 5:18, we see life and people more positively and actually find ourselves happier!