Giving Thanks in All Circumstances

Sometimes, it is hard to see anything when we are walking in the rain. We keep our heads down and we try to move ahead. With our minds set on drier destinations, counting blessings tends to be an afterthought.

Likewise, giving thanks during the metaphorical storms of life does not come naturally. Blessings are harder to see when we are awash in emotion. However, if we mindfully seek God’s gifts while proceeding through difficult circumstances, we can always find them.

A Story of Giving Thanks…

Granted, crazier things have happened. But, I am truly surprised when the receptionist at the hospital’s surgery and procedure center recognizes me. With her artsy flair of untamed hair and funky glasses, one understands why she is not easily forgotten. But me, noticeably lacking in pieces of flair — I am more apt to slide by unnoticed.

“Hmm, hey, you’ve been here before, haven’t you?” she asks. “You look familiar. Nice to see you.”

I nod. “Yes, it’s been several years,” I say. “I can’t believe you remember me.”

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV 

Thanks for Kindness

Three years ago, life was moving too quickly, transitions were happening, and health concerns of family and friends seemed overwhelming. I sat in the waiting room behind this same receptionist, trying to keep worry from eating up my insides. Bustling around her desk, the receptionist greeted incoming patients and their loved ones with a reassuring presence and calm step-by-step instructions. I noticed a big button pinned on her shirt which the other receptionists did not have. It read, “I GIVE FREE HUGS.”

On that day, I, someone who rarely initiates any public displays of affection, surprised myself by boldly accepting her hugging offer. Give thanks in all circumstances — thank God for people who throw kindness around like confetti and who lift the spirits of everyone they meet.

Thanks for Humor

So, here I am again in the same waiting room. The circumstances are different, but still concerning. I buy a cup of tea at the café and find a chair by the long set of windows. Scanning the waiting room, I take in the large maze of walls, windows, and partitions. Each division or pod creates a somewhat private waiting space for family and friends.

A family of ten trails in and sets up camp in a pod close by. It is early and the adults are disheveled, in need of coffee. Their children twist around impatiently on the floor at their feet. After awhile, I notice a boy, about four years old, pushing a toy truck up a chair leg and across the laps of his adult companions.

Exasperated he says, “Do we REALLY have to stay here all day?!”

His mother answers, “Yes, your dad is having surgery today. We have to be here.”

He grumbles, “Man! Now my whole day is ruined.”

I smile and stifle the laughter rising up. I love the unfiltered honesty of children. Give thanks in all circumstances — thank God for the humor that turns a serious moment upside down and shakes it all around.  

Thanks for Thoughts and Insights

Gazing out the window, I take a sip from my cup. Through the windows of a building across the street, I watch a preschool lesson in action. A teacher is speaking and the children are eagerly listening — as little ones will. They reach out excitedly to each other, hold hands, and quickly form a circle anticipating what is to come. Then, suddenly, whoosh! Together, their tiny hands toss a multi-colored parachute up high in the air. It balloons up, then gently floats down to rest. They smile and jump about, ready to do it again and again.

My mind flashes back to playing this parachute game when I was young. Never athletically inclined, this physical education activity was one I actually looked forward to. As I watch the parachute across the street rise and fall, I think about the ups and downs of life. Hard times come and go. We’re in the thick of trouble, and then we’re not.

Like a parachute jump from an airplane, our free fall in a difficult situation can feel like it goes on forever. We pray God would hurry up and deploy the parachute already! But, so often we must wait in our uncomfortableness. God knows the landscape ahead better than we do and he has a plan. As our instructor, he encourages us to rely on his wisdom, care, and grace. Give thanks in all circumstances — thank God for the way he comforts and speaks to us when we get quiet and listen.  

God’s Will

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

The second part of this Scripture, regarding God’s will, can be confusing. Does God want us to be thankful for the bad things that happen to us? Further study clarified Paul the Apostle’s meaning. He says to give thanks in all circumstances. Note this is different than saying give thanks for all circumstances. Awful and evil things in this world are not from God — we do not need to be thankful for them. Our thankfulness is for his presence with us in trouble and for the good he brings forth from it. God’s will for us is to use gratitude — in all circumstances — to find peace and rest regardless of changing events and emotions. 

A Formula for THANKS

Whatever our day brings, we can look for traces of God’s presence with us and give thanks for his care. Some blessings or gifts are easily identified like food, shelter, family, activities, income, etc. Others, like the ones below, are blessings that come from within.

T = Thoughts – God quietly speaks to us in our thoughts through the Holy Spirit. Referencing Scripture can help us discern his voice from other distractions and feelings.

H = Humor – God lightens our load through the gift of laughter. He puts people and events in our path which make us smile.

A = Acceptance – God points out things we have been reluctant to accept. He shows us where we are stuck, what we need to do, and who we need to forgive.

N = Nature – God calms our emotions with the many beautiful gifts of his creation (e.g. rainbows, sunrises, wildlife).

K = Kindness – God cares for us through the kindness of others.

S = Shine Opportunities – God provides us opportunities to shine his light by being a blessing to others.

Remaining mindful of the many gifts God provides may not change a difficult situation, but it does change our outlook. Gratitude helps us gain confidence that God is with us, and he is working all things together for our good. As our faith in him grows, so does our hope. And, hope in restoration from our God, a God who loves us, is always firm and secure. Press on in faith, my friends!

Puddles
by Jamie Trunnel

There’s bound to be puddles in your path.
Showing up as people, places, and things like that.

Some race through
Causing quite a splash.
Solving problems fast;
Missing meaning as they dash.

Others wade in,
Then get stuck.
Wallowing in trial;
Living in muck.

The lucky proceed
Like playing chess.
Seeing beauty ripple
From trouble’s mess.

Find this poem and many others in my new book Simple Wishes . The poems and color photos in Simple Wishes were inspired by the easily overlooked blessings in life. It makes a great gift for someone you are thankful for. All profits are donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with gratitude for the work they do.

Other Related Posts:

Three Ways Gratitude Boosts Faith

Small Surprises from God

Walking at a Dog-determined Pace

This is the Day the Lord has Made

Where Joy Flows From

 

 

6 thoughts on “Giving Thanks in All Circumstances”

  1. Dear Jamie, this is beautiful to read, ponder, and apply. I’m especially thankful for your reminder we’re to be thankful “in” and not necessarily “for” our trials. And “A” for “acceptance” caught my eye because God has been helping me with this lately.
    Thanksgiving Blessings ~ Wendy

    1. Thank you Wendy, God’s always working on us isn’t he?! Not always pleasant, but certainly beneficial. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family my friend!

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