“in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Most of us would admit that we struggle with giving thanks in everything. That’s why thankfulness in the midst of adversity is a sign of spiritual maturity. It’s not about being thankful for the hurt, but learning to recognize how God is working through the hurt. Plus, we’re clearly told that a life of gratitude is God’s will for us. So how do we get there? What are the roadblocks to gratitude?
We often talk about feeling thankful. But gratitude is a matter of obedience—not emotion. Our feelings are real, they just aren’t reliable. That’s why God doesn’t ask how we feel about His Word. He simply tells us to obey it. If we put obedience first, the emotion will follow. Focusing on feelings leads to chronic complaining, which is the opposite of being thankful.
The clearest biblical example of chronic complainers are the Israelites in the wilderness (Numbers 11:1). Even though God faithfully provided food every day, they complained about the food He provided. Complaining is always about what’s not happening. It reveals a lack of contentment. Israel got so wrapped up in their own thinking that they forgot what God had already done. And when they stopped telling their story, they lost God’s perspective.
God often allows adversity to test our loyalty to Him or to expose our loyalty to comfort. He knows we stop developing when we’re comfortable for too long. Learning happens in the hard places and tough spots. For instance, athletic practice is designed to be hard. Otherwise there’s no meaningful development. Some of what we call spiritual warfare is actually God trying to develop us in a certain area. We lack God’s perspective when we fail to think this way.
Giving thanks in everything isn’t easy. Yet, it’s what God expects. And if it wasn’t for our good He wouldn’t tell us to do it. When was the last time you expressed gratitude in the middle of adversity? Have you lost sight of God’s perspective on a particular situation? Remember, it’s not about what God is doing to you but what He’s trying to build in you. So, instead of complaining about what’s not happening, be thankful for what God is doing and has already done. You don’t have to be a prisoner to your feelings. There’s freedom in gratitude.