Throughout God’s Word, we find the instruction to “give thanks.” Here are just a few examples:
- “Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people” (I Chronicles 16:8).
- “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever” (I Chronicles 16:34).
- “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (Psalm 30:4).
One verse in the New Testament defines when we are to give thanks. According to I Thessalonians 5:18: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” There are no boundaries and no exception clauses in regard to when we are to give thanks. We are to give thanks “in every thing.”
How does this truth relate to the suffering we experience? Does this verse mean we are to be thankful when a young mother dies of cancer? Does it mean I should give thanks when I lose my job? Does God mean we should rejoice when a couple suffers the anguish of multiple miscarriages?
Thanking God in all things does not mean that we thank God for evil. Rather, we are to thank God in the midst of all things. With their decision to sin, Adam and Eve rejected God’s plan for a life without pain and sorrow, and the curse they received fell on all who have been born since then. The good news is that God the Father has redeemed us from that curse through the blood of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13–14). Therefore, as an act of redemption, God is able to take any circumstance that Satan or others intended for evil and redeem it for God’s glory and our good.
Let’s look at four reasons why we can and should thank God in everything.
1. God is sovereign over all things.
Job was the most righteous man of his day; God was well pleased with him. However, Satan scorned God’s praise of Job, predicting that Job would curse God if God removed the protection from Job’s possessions and family.
God gave Satan permission to afflict Job—within certain limits. In a single day, Job lost 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 donkeys. On the same day, Job’s seven sons and three daughters were killed when the house in which they were gathered collapsed. When Job was informed of these tragedies, he could have said, “The Lord gave, and Satan has taken away!” Instead, Job declared, “The LORD gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).
Then God gave Satan permission to go even further and destroy Job’s health. Soon painful sores covered Job’s body. What was Job’s response to this evil? In Job 2:10 his response is recorded: “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” Job realized that God was sovereign—in control of all things at all times. He knew that God could have prevented this suffering. Job chose to trust God in the face of this unprecedented onslaught at the hand of Satan.
Until we understand that, ultimately, everything comes through, if not from, the good hand of God, we will never be able to develop a grateful spirit. Job responded correctly to the losses and suffering inflicted upon him. You and I are called to walk in the same faith in God that Job demonstrated.
2. Ultimately, as a child of God, everything is for my good.
Many believers are familiar with the promise of Romans 8:28: “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” It is important to note that this promise is made “to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” This promise is only for believers because, as children of God, He directs all of our steps. Our Heavenly Father has also made this promise: “The LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). (See also Romans 8:29–32.)
When Satan tormented the Apostle Paul with a physical infirmity, Paul petitioned God three times, asking God to deliver him from it. However, God chose not to remove Paul’s infirmity. Paul’s own words explain the reason why God chose to say no to his request for deliverance: “Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure” (II Corinthians 12:7). In God’s eyes, the benefits of Paul’s suffering outweighed the cost of it.
Some things come to us that we would not classify as good. Sometimes God allows us to see the reasons why He allows hardships to come into our lives. For example, in the Biblical account of Joseph’s life, when his jealous brothers sold him into slavery, Joseph surely did not regard his situation as a blessing. However, in later years Joseph was able to discern God’s bigger plan.
When his brothers sought forgiveness for their cruelty toward him, Joseph’s response was recorded in Genesis 50:19–21. “Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.”
3. Every experience can produce Godly character in my life.
Romans 8:28 tells us that all things work together for our good, and Romans 8:29 explains how and why everything works together for our good: “For whom he [God] did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” The Greek word translated as “image” in this verse means “likeness, resemblance, representation.” God’s goal is to make us like His Son, Jesus Christ.
Christ is the express image of the Father. “God . . . hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, . . . Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person . . . when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1–3). The Greek word translated as “express image” is the word character. It refers to an engraving as on a stamp for an identical likeness, the exact expression of any person or thing, a precise reproduction in every respect.
As we yield—by faith—to God’s goal of conforming us to the image and the character of His Son Jesus, each circumstance in a believer’s life functions as a tool that can shape him or her into the “exact likeness” of Christ. Even Jesus learned obedience as He yielded to His Father’s will, through suffering: “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).
4. Everything has the potential to teach me God’s ways.
God desires to fellowship with His children. However, two people who have opposite perspectives about everything cannot enjoy true fellowship. Our natural thoughts are completely opposite from God’s thoughts. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
As a means to teach us to think God’s thoughts after Him, God exposes us to trials and afflictions, which He uses to motivate us to seek Him and know Him. The writer of Psalm 119 gave this testimony: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (verse 71).
When we seek God in the face of trials and suffering, we can come to know Him better. The Israelites’ leader Moses said to the Lord, “Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee . . .” (Exodus 33:13). The purpose of knowing God’s ways is to know God.
When we remember God’s sovereignty, His goodness toward His children, the value of becoming more like Christ, and the opportunity to learn more of God’s ways, we have a reason to rejoice in any circumstance. God is able to use every situation for good in our lives.
“For I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure . . . yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it” (Isaiah 46:9–11).