1 Thessalonians 5:18
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (NLT)
I had heard this scripture many times, reminding me to be thankful in all circumstances. But until I saw God in action, transforming something bad into something good for Him, I couldn’t fathom that He actually meant “all” circumstances.
For example, surely He didn’t mean those circumstances where serious errors in adolescent judgment scarred my heart forever. Circumstances where my own sin brought on heartache. Circumstances where someone betrayed me, violated my trust, and hurt me deeply. Circumstances where fear, pain and suffering felt overwhelming.
Surely this scripture doesn’t mean be thankful for THOSE circumstances. Yet, it does.
Maybe you have questioned the reality of this verse as well. How can we be thankful for painful circumstances and memories? Why would be thankful for heartache? How could God possibly use difficult circumstances for not only good, but for His glory like we read about in Romans 8:28? I struggled with these questions for quite a long time, until I finally stopped arguing with God, and started believing this truth.
I spent far too many years living in shame or regret, assuming God probably didn’t love me, while being haunted each day by memories and regrets. Rather than learning to be thankful for all things, I had learned how to live in denial that God’s promises were meant for me. That He could use something really ugly in my life for a beautiful purpose, if I was willing to trust in His promises of forgiveness, grace, mercy, peace and purpose. I couldn’t understand how God could love me, despite me, much less have a special plan for my life.
But sweet friend, I have since learned that true thankfulness to God – even when we can’t understand why we should be thankful and can’t convince our heart to do so – truly does open spiritual eyes and mend our hearts in a way we would never anticipate.
Even when we cannot fathom anything to be thankful for with regard to a certain hardship or pain, God’s promise for purpose does not change. His promises are not affected by our inability to see things from His perspective.
God is patiently waiting for the day when we choose to trust that He has been planning our future, and has been equipping us for purpose, during our entire lives, through every circumstance – good and bad. Waiting for us to believe that our lives have meaning and we are destined for a unique purpose – not despite our past, but because of it.
The only hurdle to embracing God’s unconditional love and seeing and fulfilling divine purpose for our lives, is our own lack of faith, not God’s lack of love or planning. Before our eyes can really be opened to see God at work, we have to first learn to be thankful for what we have experienced in life, even when our common sense tell us just the opposite.
But let’s face it – a faith on fire for Christ that compels us to push past our biggest hurts and fears and trust God above all else is never going to be easy. If it were, everybody would do it. But when we practice true thankfulness like we are reminded to have in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, anything is possible in Christ – including an amazing life of purpose we would have never imagined.
You see, God knows how He wants to use our pain for His purposes, and we are all called to trust Him so that He can help us see why we really can be thankful for it.
God never allows or causes something to happen in our lives without having an incredible plan for holy purpose. A purpose that brings us joy and abundant life when we are willing to embrace it. A purpose that makes life worth living. A purpose that brings joy and peace. And for all that – we can most certainly be thankful.
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