Gratitude in Everything


“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thess. 5:16-18

Years ago, I came across a quote from Matthew Henry, the eighteenth-century biblical expositor, and I’ve seen it several times since then. After being robbed while living in London, and then reflecting on the incident, he wrote the following entry in his journal: "Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before; second, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed."

This was undoubtedly an unsettling experience, as it would be for any of us. Henry could have been bitter about his circumstances. He could have complained about those who did him wrong, or accused those who should have done more to prevent it. He could have felt sorry for himself and the troubles he had to endure. But instead, he was thankful. It was a choice.

Ingratitude is a disposition that leads to ugly attitudes and bad choices. It breeds selfishness, greed, and jealousy. It manifests itself in taking things for granted and feeling entitled. Paul noted that a root cause of the many tragic failures of mankind, was choosing not to “give thanks” (Rom. 1:21). This choice was accompanied by the failure to give to God the honor he deserves. It was the first step in man’s departure from God.

Cicero said that “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” Choosing to be thankful is an attitude and a way of life. Gratitude cultivates an attitude of appreciation, respect, and contentment about life. It is the mindset that causes us to count our blessings rather than our problems.

Scripture teaches us the lesson that being thankful is at the heart of godliness and obedience. Every word and action done in the Lord’s name should be accompanied by “giving thanks” (Col. 3:17). Thanksgiving is the essence of a life of service and worship. “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Ps. 107:1).

We have so much in our lives to be thankful for, including life itself and all that sustains us. Be thankful for the commonplace joys of life—friends, family, and good health. Be thankful for the opportunities we have been afforded and the help we have been given. Be thankful for the spiritual blessings we have from God, and the hope they give us.

And yes, we should be thankful for the trials that come, for the doors those trials can open for us to do good, and for the opportunity to experience growth. Thanksgiving in everything, combined with prayer, is both the answer to worry and the way to peace, no matter the circumstances. As Paul says,

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

Dan Petty