In everything give thanks. [I Thessalonians 5:18]
A tall order, especially when the way is dark and the treacherous road ahead is endless and you cannot see your way out, over, around, or through.
Nevertheless, the apostle Paul stipulated, “This is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
Sometimes, after an answer to prayer, or the end of a trial, we are able to look back and make some sense of why events unfolded as they did. In some cases—with hindsight—we can say, “I see. If that hadn’t happened, then…”
But it’s not so easy to discern God’s working while you’re in the midst of the situation.
Consider the people you “know” from reading about their lives. What if you could travel back in time with the information you have—the end of their stories—and encourage them to give thanks in everything?
You might say to Jacob, for instance:
In everything give thanks, Jacob. The son you think is dead and that you are certain you will go to your grave mourning is actually alive and in Egypt at this very moment, making a plan to preserve your family during a time of famine. Not only will you meet him again. You will meet his sons.
To Naomi: In everything give thanks. It wasn’t your idea to go down into Moab. And even though you stayed there so long, and your sons married Moabite women, one of them, Ruth, is going to go back home with you. She is going to marry Boaz and become the mother of Obed, who will be the father of Jesse, who will be the father of David the King. So you see, you had to go to Moab to meet Ruth. Aren’t you glad you did?
To Hannah: In everything give thanks. You will have a son and five more children after him. Samuel is going to be a great prophet and will stand for God and in God’s stead to priests and kings. You will serve as an example to childless women to keep praying. All those years you spent listening to Peninnah brag about how many children she had…well, we don’t know any of their names, do we?
To Job: In everything give thanks. The story of the trials you endured, the losses you incurred, putting up with the so-called friends who did anything but help you and bothered you entirely too long, will inspire generations of believers. The words you wished were written down in a book? [Job 19:23] They were.
To David: In everything give thanks. The story of your killing Goliath is going to be a legendary example of having courage. All that running you did from Saul and your refusal to lift your hand against the king will serve as a reminder to believers to let the Lord fight their battles for them. The Psalms you wrote during your darkest hours will comfort other people during theirs.
You can create your own list with more Bible characters or historic figures like John Newton, who regretted his miserable life as a slave trader, but without his sinking into the depths of sin, we would not have “Amazing Grace.” And where would we be without that hymn?
In everything give thanks.