“in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” — I Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV
Why does God ask us to focus on giving thanks? I’ve heard it said that God shouldn’t need our praise or our thanksgiving and why does He want all this attention on Himself?
But the truth is, a loving Father doesn’t teach his children to say “please” and “thank you” because of any personal benefit to himself. He teaches his children these things for their own benefit.
I had a rough day one day, and everything was going wrong. I dropped things, spilled things, ran late, hurt myself a little, ran into horrible traffic on the way to work, had a million tiny things dropped on me at work that meant I barely got any of the important work done. The whole day, I felt grumpy and miserable and by the end of a long day of bad things happening, of work, and of chores, I just wanted to cry and curl up in a little ball and not come out.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV
On a different day, I also had a rough day, with equal number of unpleasant things happening. I even had arguments with my loved ones that could have put a sour note on everything. But that day, I reminded myself that my loved one was here with me, instead of estranged or gone. I was thankful that I made it safely to work despite the bad traffic, and there was a parking spot close to the building. And so on throughout the day, there were little things that didn’t turn sour, didn’t go bad, and I was thankful.
This thanksgiving, this letting go of anxiousness had a curious result. I was not miserable. I admit I wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be. It was a struggle often to find something to be thankful for. But choosing to focus on the good things that happened, to keep my eyes open to the blessings and protections of God changed how I felt. I did have happiness. I did accomplish things. At the end of the day, I was tired but satisfied and content in what I had accomplished. My heart had been guarded from misery.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” — Philippians 4:8 NKJV
Every day has a mix of bad things and good things, small notes of pleasure or pain or difficulty or heartache or blessing. Every day has an opportunity for us to complain about the things that hurt us or give thanks for the things that bless us. We have the choice to look at and focus on the things that are bad or the things that are good. It is for our own happiness, our own wellbeing, that we should focus on the things which are good—and give thanks.
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” — Colossians 3:15 NKJV