"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever."
I have gotten into the habit this New Year of beginning my prayers with praise and thanksgiving. Praise recognizes who God is to me. By giving him specific thanks, I am recognizing all he has done for me. I try to mesh these two together as I humbly begin each morning so that there is no doubt that I am forever grateful for all the blessings in my life. How can I ask God for something more if I haven't even thanked him for what he has done?
When we give thanks we are following Biblical tradition. In many of St. Paul's letters he tells the church and its people how he gives thanks for each of them. He told Thessalonians that he thanked God for their faithful and love-filled work and their hope-inspired endurance. (1 Thessalonians 1:3) Solomon thanked God for the opportunity to fulfill his father's desire for a temple. (1 Kings 8:15) Daniel thanked God for telling him what the king's dream meant. (Daniel 2:19-23) Jesus even gave thanks for the five loaves and two fish that feed five thousand. (John 6:11).
But I think the true challenge comes when we are asked to "give thanks to all circumstances, for this God's will for you in Christ Jesus." ( 1 Thessalonians 5:15) But how do we do that when our lives have become so unraveled that we fear how to put it back together again? This has got to be one of the hardest things we're asked to do as Christians, giving thanks for what seems to be one awful mess.
But remember that faith implies a leap. It may not make sense at the time, but awful things do happen to true believers. And from awful messes true light will form in the midst. Giving thanks to all circumstances releases a great burden. It sheds light knowing God is working in our lives, and he will take care of everything. We know in the end God will take care of the pain, and make us more like himself in the outcome. This spiritual strength takes us one step closer to God as we endure what he has set out before us.
So no matter how trivial or disheartening your circumstances may be, always - always - always begin with praise and thanksgiving. Look into your soul and mention the good things still present in your life. Have faith, let go, and begin again.
And so let us pray..........
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endure forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say this-
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west from north and south.
(Psalm 107 1:3)