We’ve heard it before. In fact, for many of us, it’s a favorite! “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

And, like, yes! This is exactly how we want to live our lives. But, what about the moments when living into these instructions feels pretty… well, impossible?

During these times, there are a few things to remember. First– this is an instruction from the Bible, which also has a book called Lamentations and moments where Jesus cries. So, we are to understand there’s ALSO a place to express grief and suffering. 

In fact, even as Paul is giving these instructions to the Thessalonians, they’ve already faced a number of circumstances that would’ve made constant rejoicing and gratitude pretty difficult. In Acts 17, we see Paul having to flee Thessalonica after the Thessalonians are accused of betraying their allegiance to Caesar after proclaiming Jesus to be King. This led to such an intense period of persecution, Paul was left unable to visit– hence the letter. While much of the letter is a celebration of their faithfulness, in the letter itself, Paul still addresses difficult topics such as suffering, persecution, sin, and death… woof.

It’s in this context that the Thessalonicans receive the instructions to rejoice always. To Pray always. To give thanks always.

And, this is the context that makes it relatable. Because, sometimes, as a very wise pirate once quipped, “Life is pain… Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

But, really. The Thessalonians knew pain well. Just as we know pain well.

And yet…

Paul assures his brothers and sisters in Christ, in spite of the worst that life can throw at us, Christ is worthy of our praise, and there is always reason for hope. While this doesn’t mean that we must be happy about or celebrate the tragic things happening in the world, or in our own lives, it does mean that God is trustworthy through these times.

So, if you’re ever facing an experience that makes you feel like you cannot possibly give thanks… Well, first of all, remember that lament is a normal, scriptural, component of life. But, we hope that, eventually, these truths can help bring you some comfort, and some things to still be thankful for.


3 Ways to “Give Thanks” in All Circumstances

Remember what God has done.

“So my spirit grows faint within me;

    my heart within me is dismayed.

I remember the days of long ago;

    I meditate on all your works

    and consider what your hands have done” (Psalm 143:4-6).

When it’s hard to find hope in the present, we can minister to ourselves with reminders of God’s past faithfulness. To Israel. To the early church. Even past events in our own lives that he was able to guide us through. We can remember that God became man to dwell among us, and the saving grace he has already made available to us. Remembering what God has already done and accomplished can allow us to trust that he is working currently as well, even if we can’t see it yet.

Remember what God is doing.

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” (Revelation 21:5).

We’re going to get into some more Revelation verses, but wanted to start with this one because… it’s present tense y’allllll. God is active and working in the world today, making all things new. He has left us his Holy Spirit, so we may be the hands and feet of his kingdom in the here and now (John 15:26-27). All the while, Jesus continues to prepare a place for us, and intercedes and advocates on our behalf– even when we’re in the midst of our most dire circumstances (1 John 2:1–2). Just as the Thessalonians experienced, this does not mean that life will be without suffering or pain. But, it does mean that Christ is not indifferent to the world’s brokenness.  He is redeeming his land, and inviting us into his good works, until the day his kingdom comes.

Remember what God will do.

“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” (Revelation 21:1–4).

This is where we reach the epitome of our hope. One day, we will be reunited with God, and he will physically dwell among us again. When this day comes, all of our wrongs will be made right. The world, our relationships–everything–will exist, once again, as it was meant to be. This is the hope that the church has clung to, in the darkest of times. 

But, we can see glimpses of this in our present circumstances, too. Moments of great blessing and abundance. Times when we experience joy so great, it almost feels otherworldly. And, perhaps, it is. A brief glimpse into the beauty and grace that God is preparing for us.