Giving thanks always

Give thanks

Photo by daveparker, Flickr

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.”

About Joel J. Miller

I'm the author of Lifted by Angels, a look at angels through the eyes of the early church. Click here for more about me or subscribe to my RSS here.

  • http://curtharding.com/ Curt Harding

    What a wonderful reminder and how hard it is to practice. I am reminded of a man I once talked to who had recently lost his wife to cancer. He said that he told God that he’s not going to talk to him for a while because although he knows He’s great, He doesn’t seem so great right now. After some time had passed, he learned to give thanks for his wife’s life and he prayed a lot. A few years later he remarried and had a beautiful baby. Today he is still thanking God for his first wife and for wonderful gifts that came in the form of second chances. Thanks Joel.

  • http://joeljmiller.com Joel J. Miller

    Curt, thanks for that story. You have to love seeing thanksgiving in action.

  • http://www.learntostudythebible.com bible study

    Great. care to talk about your resources :) ?

  • http://joeljmiller.com Joel J. Miller

    Bible study: Sure. What are you thoughts?


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