Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This passage of scripture is on my mind as our country gets ready to celebrate Thanksgiving. I love these verses, and I see them every morning in our kitchen, where they are prominently displayed. At the start of each new day I am reminded to give thanks in all circumstances. Why? Because “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” God wants us to give thanks, not just when we feel like it, but in all circumstances.

When you think about it, there is always something that we can give thanks for, no matter our current circumstances. Our very existence is a miracle, after all. As is this amazing world in which we live. But even more than that, we can always give thanks that we are God’s beloved children. How incredible to think that we have a God who loves us! And who promises to be with us, no matter what! When we remember that, how can we help but give thanks in all circumstances? 

One of the things that I have learned over the years is that when God commands us to do something, it is inevitably because it is good for us. And God’s command for us to give thanks definitely falls into that category. Nowadays, there are even scientific studies to prove this. Here is an article that points out that after 15 years of research, it is clear that gratitude is a key to psychological well-being:

This article provides evidence for how the practice of gratitude can make us happier, improve our relationships, and potentially even counteract depression and suicidal thoughts. The research even suggests that grateful people may have better sleep, healthier hearts, and fewer aches and pains. It turns out that the simple practice of giving thanks in all circumstances can quite literally change our brains.

Science, you might say, is finally figuring out what Christians have always known – that remembering to give thanks is a key to being made truly well. A great example of this in scripture is the story of a Samaritan leper who was made well by giving thanks. Here is the story: 

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”Luke 17:11-19

I love the little detail in this story that, while all ten lepers were “made clean” by Jesus, only the one who returned to give thanks was “made well.” Jesus can heal them all, but it is their faith that makes them well. Medicine and science have come a long way since the time of Jesus, and can cure many ailments. But it is still true that our faith, our gratitude to God, is what saves us and makes us well

All ten lepers were made clean by Jesus. True. But they are going to get sick again. They are going to face other trials in life, too. And when they do, only one of them will have Jesus to turn to – the one who remembered to give thanks. He is the one who now has a relationship with God that can provide him comfort, strength, and hope when life’s challenges try to take that away. Only the one who returned to give thanks, and who was told by Jesus that his faith has made him well, will be able to go through all the ups and downs of life with Jesus at his side. What a wonderful gift! All because of the spiritual practice of giving thanks!

So, as I prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I am remembering how important it is to give thanks to God in all circumstances, no matter where life takes us. It is the will of God for us. And because God loves us, God’s will for us is always what is best for us. Thanks be to God.