Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
There is a difference between giving God thanks for all circumstances and giving God thanks in all circumstances. Some people suggest that everything that happens- the good and the bad- is by the hand of the Lord, so we can give thanks for it all. As if things that seem bad to us are not really so bad- they are just blessings in disguise; part of God’s “mysterious ways.”
I’m not convinced. First, the effects of sin and death in the world are in opposition to God and his good creation. To assign those effects directly to God as if he causes accidents, plants cancer cells, or directs people to drive cars into crowds of people is not consistent with the character of God revealed in Scripture. God is on the side of life, not death. And second, I cannot find anywhere in Scripture where we are asked to thank God for the evil that befalls us. These verses from 1 Thessalonians come close, but look carefully: we give God thanks in all circumstances, not for all circumstances.
So what’s the difference? To give God thanks in all circumstances is to know that no matter what anxiety, trial, persecution, or hardship we face, God is able to redeem it. The evil, sin, and brokenness of this world does not have the final word. The final word belongs to Jesus, who through the resurrection overcame all of those dark forces and made a way for us to share that victory through being connected to him. The enemies we face today are already defeated.
This week, no matter the circumstances, you can give thanks because of Jesus. He is our hope, and that is a reason for Thanksgiving!