Being thankful in all circumstances is difficult sometimes, isn’t it? Though one of the fruits of the Spirit is joy—and Christians are called to live a life characterized by joy—our circumstances too often have a way of dictating the amount of joy and thankfulness that’s shining through us.
In my life, God has really taught me to always be thankful no matter what my circumstances may be. This very simple and profound truth is found in one of the shortest verses in the Bible: “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Or I think another way the apostle Paul might have put it is this: “Be thankful no matter what’s happening to you or around you!”
The Bible doesn’t tell you and me to rejoice sometimes. We’re told to rejoice always! That means regardless of your situation in life, you should continue to live with the joy of the Lord shining through you.
But isn’t that so counterintuitive? Yes, it is! The world tells us that our thankfulness should be based on our circumstances. And that would make perfect sense if our joy was supposed to be found in the things of this world!
But that’s not the life God wants for you. He wants you to find your joy in Him. You see, God loves you so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to come to earth and die for you. He did this so that you can have eternal life with Him. Now that’s something to be thankful for!
Now, you may be thinking, “Warren, I know the Bible tells me to be thankful. But I’m so alone, my health is failing, and I feel like I have nothing. I can’t possibly be thankful!”
Well first of all, being joyful doesn’t mean you have to walk around with a big smile on your face all the time. Pretending to be joyful is not at all the same thing as having deep, abiding joy within you. But let’s take a look at how our ultimate example, Jesus, was thankful despite His circumstances.
The night before Jesus was crucified, He prayed in agony. He even told His disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). But despite the fact that Jesus was overwhelmed with sorrow, He was still joyful! How do I know that? Look at what Hebrews 12:2 tells us about Him,
…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (emphasis mine).
Isn’t that amazing? Jesus was in the middle of the most excruciating experience of His life, and He was still willing to serve His Father because of His eternal perspective of joy. Jesus’ joy was not based on His temporary circumstances, and ours shouldn’t be either!
So as you think about what you are thankful for this year, I hope you remember that when things look darkest, God Himself came to earth to die for you. And the joy that is set before you will last for eternity. Because of that, you can rejoice always!