A Reason To Give Thanks


Why should we be thankful in all circumstances? Are there not some things that happen for which there is no rational reason to give thanks? These are not unrecognizable questions for any of us. The answers often depend on our own attitudes at the time. We usually think of giving thanks when we are filled with gratitude for at the surprise of some unsought gift, or for some aid that was sorely needed at a moment in time. Our thanksgiving, in other words, is connected mostly to a specific event, in a particular moment in time. Paul is suggesting here that thanksgiving has a much larger context for us as Christians.

In light of all the things that life can bring to us, good and bad, we have something to be thankful for that puts all of life’s good and bad experiences into context. What we have, of course, is the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. He is the reason for our joy, and for our attitude of thanksgiving. Why? It is because of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ that we have been saved. Because of him our sins are forgiven and the darkness of death has been conquered. Because of him: “…the dawn from on high [has] shown upon us, [we no longer] dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, [and now] our feet are guided on the way of peace.” (Luke 1: 78-79)

Jesus Christ is the incarnation of the Father’s love for us. In him God is no longer a distant, unfathomable idea, but has become like us in all things, even flesh and blood: “Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2: 7-8) Whatever distance there was between God and man was eliminated by the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. When we look at Jesus, we see the Father. In him we have come to know ourselves as loved for who we are, without distinction, personally and infinitely. We know in the Holy Spirit that God is with us at all times, in all places, in “all circumstances.” Because of Jesus Christ our faith is made concrete and efficacious. Because of Jesus our hope is real and constant. Because of Jesus our calling to love has reason and purpose. It was for our sins that he came among us and willingly suffered and died for us on the Cross. He knows our struggle personally, for he has shared in it perfectly. Because of Jesus we have the Church, the Body of Christ. “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16: 18) Because he remains with us in the Body of Christ, we have nothing to fear, not even the Prince of Darkness. This is why we can, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for [us] in Christ Jesus.”

Christians, then, are to be thanksgiving people. As such we ought to: “…admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, [and be] patient with all. [We ought not return] evil for evil; rather [we ought] always seek what is good for each other and for all.” Because of Jesus Christ we can, “rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. [And] in all circumstances give thanks, for this is God’s will for [us] in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 14-18)

Lord, help us to be thanksgiving people in all circumstances, even in those that are painful or difficult in our lives. Help us to keep our eyes of Christ at all times, and in all circumstances. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.
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