“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
Our team recently studied 1 Thessalonians together, and thanksgiving is a repeated theme. After reading “1,000 Gifts” by Ann Voskamp a few years ago I got into the habit of daily writing down things I was thankful for, then fell out of the habit after a few weeks. Then, after moving overseas, we lived in a difficult homestay situation and I again found myself writing out a list of things to be thankful for each day--otherwise the list of negatives things overwhelmed me. Now after living in quarantine for over two months, I find myself starting up the practice again and it has once again been life-changing for many, many reasons:
1) It leads to a life saturated with prayer. The first half of 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 states: “Rejoice always, praying without ceasing”. Praying without ceasing sounds impossible, but when we give thanks to God I think this is part of what this verse means. Thanksgiving is sweet, intimate communication with God.
2) It equips us for spiritual battle. The negativity and discouragement that is so strong during this time of quarantine is partially because I am choosing to walk in the flesh, but it is also because of the Enemy. He plants lies and sows seeds of discontentment to turn our eyes away from what God is doing, leaving no opportunity for us to remember our eternal hope, joy, and peace that we have in Christ.
3) God sees when we are thankful, and honors it. I do not mean to make this sound like a give and take relationship by any means (after all, anything we have has been given by God and we are not worthy of any of it), but what I do mean is that when we give thanks, it is pleasing to Him. Sometimes when I choose to give thanks I immediately feel His presence and joy, and have assurance that “the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart are pleasing to Him” (Ps. 19:14). This relates to the idea of “storing up treasure in heaven” (Matt 6:19). It is not a selfish thing to desire to store up treasure in Heaven, because our eternal Treasure is Jesus Christ. Desiring more of Him is never sinful--it is, in fact, righteous.
This is a very short list. There are dozens of other reasons why we should give thanks (the main reason being is that it is a command). I don’t know why I always wait until hard times to take up this practice of intentional thanksgiving, but I hope and pray that once this is all over I will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, keep it up. And I hope the same for you.