Always and in Everything
Ephesians 5:20 – Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As I read this verse, two words jump off the page: always and everything.
Although I have read this verse many times, I wonder if I have ever really sat and pondered it before. Those are two very inclusive words. Always includes the times that I’m feeling tired, angry, hurt, or frustrated. Everything includes that driver who just cut me off in traffic or that person saying unkind things to me. It is easy to give thanks to God when everything is sunshine and roses and life is running along smoothly, but do I actually thank Him for the hardships in my life? Honestly, giving thanks is not usually the first thing that comes to my mind. Why not?
Am I choosing to keep my mind on all the amazing blessings that are mine because of Christ’s work on the cross? Am I seeing the bumps in life as just that: small, little bumps in the road, or am I viewing these as mountains, obscuring my view of things that should bring me gratitude? Yes, it may be hard, but where is my focus?
A Spiritual Discipline
Gratitude is a spiritual discipline. I can start by thinking of all the blessings of life in Christ. I can set my mind on the tangible things I have to be thankful for, like food and shelter. I can think about the beauty of His creation and the enjoyment it can bring. These things can help take my mind off of whatever my current woes are and can help me be grateful. But I think we are instructed to go even beyond that; beyond just focusing on the good “stuff” in life. We are called to focus on God and who He is, knowing that He allows different situations in my life to grow me or to bring glory to Himself.
James 1:2-4 reminds me of that truth, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
If the trials of our lives are helping us to persevere, and that perseverance leads us to be mature and complete in Christ, shouldn’t we be thankful for them? It’s a matter of perspective; it’s what we choose to focus on. Keeping our eyes on Christ can help us to be grateful no matter what we are going through, knowing He is walking through it with us and is growing us in the process.
All Day, Every Day
During this Thanksgiving season, may gratitude be on our minds. But it’s not just about being grateful during this season; it is a 365 days a year discipline, a marathon of gratitude … even when January comes and the winter seems never-ending, we still have so many reasons for gratitude. Let’s keep our eyes on Christ and encourage those around us to do the same. Then, hopefully, with much prayer and practice, gratitude will become our natural reaction – always and in every circumstance!