On the surface of it this seems like an obvious, self-evident directive by Paul. As disciples of Christ we are called to be a thankful people. And it’s not a hard thing to be thankful. As we grow in our understanding of the magnitude of the gift God has given us – his Son and all the associated spiritual blessings, surely thankfulness would flow naturally. The naturalness of this gratitude could be likened to the thanks that would inherently gush from someone who’s life had been saved in a near death experience.
I had a family friend once who was scuba diving at a depth of about 5 metres off Rottnest and as he came up over a reef top he looked down into a sandy patch below and saw a young Japanese lady diver lying motionless on the bottom. Her regulator wasn’t in her mouth and her lips were blue. Long story short, he got her to the surface and into a dingy, tipped her upside down, drained the water out of her and started resuscitation. She was rushed to hospital by water police and incredibly she survived. When my friend visited her the next day, she gushed with thanks (as did her parents) even though they couldn’t speak much English.
In that situation, it would be unnatural not to feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to the person who had just saved your life. Adequate expression in words might be hard to find and anything you chose to do to show that gratitude would be nothing more than a token gesture and in no way an attempt to ‘repay’ the person for saving your life. If you tried to repay in an equivalent value, transactional kind of way then it would be seen as insulting because of the inadequacy of repayment in contrast to your life. What value can you place on a life?
So here’s the thing… I think we are probably pretty good at feeling thankful for the good things in our life. The blessings, health, food, friends, supportive brothers and sisters a vibrant, loving spiritual community. But Paul here is calling for something much bigger than that.
In Romans 8:28 Paul says that ALL things work together for good to them that love God. By all things he means, everything – the good and the bad and the darn right ugly parts of our life – all things wind and weave their way into the tapestry of our life to create God’s good in us.
So it is when he commands us to give thanks in everything… in the good times and the dark times, yes, in that moment when our life is crumbling, in the moment of weakness and sin, in the moment of hopelessness and despair. Yes in that very moment when you’ve done it again, when you feel all alone and there are no helpers, even then, find a way to give thanks because even that moment will work together for your good.