Give thanks in all circumstances … May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Thanksgiving is not always easy, even when, as a nation, the US sets aside a holiday for the express purpose of doing so. During this holiday, many of us become keenly aware of life circumstances that don’t stir up feelings of thankfulness. Some of us may be facing our loneliest days, while others are overwhelmed by the crushing burden of a loved one wandering from the gospel. Still others enter this season greatly disappointed as a result of various failures—a lost job, a broken relationship, another missed promotion. We sometimes find ourselves absolutely stuck, unable to pull ourselves out of despondency and feeling as far from gratitude as the east is from the west.
When we’re facing such situations and we read “Give thanks in all circumstances,” we often wonder how we’re supposed to respond. Yet the Bible never offers exhortations without also offering aid.
The answer for how we can show constant gratitude lies in God’s sanctifying work in us. The word “sanctify” means “to set apart for God.” When the Lord Jesus Christ comes to rule and reign in our lives, the Holy Spirit enters us in order to produce the ongoing cleansing necessary for spiritual growth. It is the work of God that enables us to be what Jesus desires for us to be, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). When we abide in Christ, “rooted and built up in him” (Colossians 2:7)—studying our Bibles, learning to pray, fellowshipping with God’s people, telling others about Him—we are reminded of all that He is for us and all that He has done for us and in us. We learn to sing with the psalmist, “We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds” (Psalm 75:1). Whatever our own regrets and disappointments, we are able to overflow with thankfulness as we remember His wondrous deeds—His cross, His resurrection, His ascension, and His work in us by His Spirit to bring us to faith and keep us in faith.
Our trials may be tough and gloomy. We may not feel thankful in every moment. That’s ok, because that’s not the point. God enables us to be grateful regardless. He provides the strength for us to fulfill Paul’s instruction.
If you are experiencing an absence of thankfulness in your life right now, then you need to turn your attention away from your circumstances, at least for a moment, and reflect on God’s gift of love for you. As you abide in Christ and allow God’s Spirit to continue His sanctifying work, He will quicken you from within, so that even through tears, pain, and disappointment, you’ll be able to respond when He bids us, “Come, ye thankful people, come.”
1 Henry Alford, “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” (1844).
Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,