Life, to quote that neglected philosopher Tonio K., is “a fiery ordeal.” Sometimes it’s easy. Most of the time, it’s not. But when life’s tough, it’s often tougher still to do the one thing we’re urged in Scripture over and again: To give thanks.
We’re all well aware of the verses. Ephesians 5: “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father. . . . ” 1 Thessalonians 5: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances. . . .” And the money shot, Philippians 4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. . . . The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”St. John Chrysostom commented on this last passage by pointing out two consolations. The first was that the Jesus was at hand. Christ is with us to the end of time, he tells us at the close of Matthew’s Gospel. The psalmist can walk through the valley of the shadow of death, why? “[F]or you are with me. . . .” The constant presence of Christ renders all things bearable because the focus shifts from the troubles to the savior.
And the second consolation, “a medicine which healeth grief, and distress and all that is painful”: The fact is that this ever-present savior has done wonderful things for us already. “He wills that our prayers should not simply be requests, but thanksgivings too for what we have. For how should he ask for future things, who is not thankful for the past?” The mind jumps to Israel murmuring in the desert. God delivers us, and our response is, Great, but what have you done for us lately? “Wherefore we ought to give thanks for all things, even for those which seem to be grievous, for this is the part of the truly thankful man.”
After all, says Chrysostom, God “disposeth all things for our profit, though we know it not.”