Paul wrote to encourage the church. And that encouragement to the church in Thessalonica came in the form of rich thanksgiving:
Rejoice always! Pray without ceasing; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”1 Thess. 5:16-18
What’s especially notable about this expression of gratitude was the timing. Life, at that time, was hard. The people faced many hardships. Some of those hardships manifested themselves in the ways that they often do for all of us: social pressures, basic ups and downs in life, and the general pull and tug, which comes with the routine of daily survival in the world.
But then there were also severe hardships – times of harsh persecution, fear, and worry and even death. Most of us haven’t experienced anything like it in our lifetimes, but perhaps we have experienced the feelings that accompany it: fear, worry, sadness, anger, despair…
To maintain morale and faithfulness among the believers, Paul had to dig in hard to overcome these obstacles. How do you overcome barriers? How do you tear down stumbling blocks in life? With thanksgiving! With gratitude! With hearts overflowing with praise.
Gratitude creates an opportunity to thank someone, and inevitably our hope is that that opportunity to thank someone will lead us to God.Fred Rogers
For those who are faithful, it does. It leads us to God. In good times and in bad, give thanks to God. In good times and in bad, rely on God.
In our time of social distancing and quarantines, we might feel frustrated, or worried or fearful. We may feel like our world is ever shrinking all around us. Let us not be afraid! For most of us, we’re still very blessed in ways far beyond what we might realize.
It’s important always to give thanks. It’s important now more than ever. Look around you and count your blessings.
If you have a home today, give thanks! If you’re warm and dry on a rainy day, give thanks! If you can read, and write and stay educated, give thanks! If you have food in your fridge, give thanks! If you have clean water, and access to doctors and medicines, give thanks! If you have laughter and love in your home, give thanks!
You are blessed beyond measure.
Byron is an avid hiker with an absolute love for all things nature. He is at his greatest moment of peace, and greatest moment of connection with God, when he is off somewhere in a forest, or on a mountaintop, or by the ocean’s edge. A close second to his love for nature is a passion for travel and learning about world cultures. Otherwise, his free time is spent reading theology, history or historical fiction, or occasionally chipping away at some rudimentary French lesson. He tinkers each night around the kitchen with his wife, Kristen, and is the proud father of two college-aged young men. By day, he serves as one of the pastors to the good people of Bel Air United Methodist Church, and finds it an overwhelming privilege to be blessedly yoked with the responsibility of caring for this wonderful congregation. His greatest spiritual goal remains, despite many failings, to be a little more like Christ in and for the world.