Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will].

1 Thessalonians 5:18

This verse is often misquoted and/or misunderstood in many religious circles.  Just today, I was reading a newspaper’s account of a “Homegoing” or funeral service and a bishop was quoted as saying, “We’re told to give thanks for, and in, all things, and right now we need You, Lord.”  He was speaking in reference to the grief of those who had so loved the departed.  Unfortunately, many have taken this to mean that God wants us to give thanks for all things and anything.  It has been taught from too many pulpits that we are to be thankful for all things and all circumstances whether good or bad,  right or wrong, blessing or cursing.  This is a fallacy which needs to be corrected both in and outside the church. 

God is a good god.  He’s not saying for us to be thankful for a diagnosis of cancer, for a child who’s died, for a failed marriage, or for a bankruptcy.  Those things fall beneath the curse.  Those things come from the destroyer…the enemy… the one who hungers to steal, kill, and destroy.  Those things are from him and he’ll do it to us as much and as often as we’ll let him.  We’re not expected to be thankful for the enemy’s handiwork.  We’re not to be thankful for poverty, illness, or any other method of the enemy.   

It’s easy to see how this verse can be misinterpreted.  It’s quite simple to look at the verse and assume it is saying to thank God for every circumstance for that circumstance is God’s will for you.  I’ve often heard people say things like, “I wouldn’t be in this (mess), if God didn’t want me in it.”  or (when justifying a disappointment or failure) “I believe God has a reason for everything…”  I usually keep my mouth shut and respectfully listen to the rest the person has to say while all the while my insides are screaming, “Yes, there’s a reason for everything, but that doesn’t necessarily mean God orchestrated the circumstances you’re referring to- quite possibly and most likely decisions you made contributed to the problem.”  Of course, I usually keep that to myself.  Yet, many people seem to find comfort in blaming God for their hurts, their pains, and even, sometimes, their failures.  A misinterpretation of a scripture like this can help them to do so- especially, when they’ve heard it from the pulpit.

So, what is the true meaning of this scripture?  I believe it is referring to living a life of thankfulness- or, rather, having an attitude of gratitude.  This means living a life that is always conscious of and thankful for the goodness of God.   Not to thank God for everything (both good and bad make up everything)  but to thank God for His goodness in everything (as in the midst of everything) – no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks to God for his goodness.  In other words, no matter what circumstance you may find yourself in, have an attitude of gratitude and don’t forget to give God thanks – not for the circumstance itself, but for His goodness which never changes.   An attitude of gratitude is sure to supercharge your prayer life!  Living a life of gratitude towards God and meditating on His goodness will help us to focus on what’s really important in the midst of any circumstance.   Hmmm….maybe it’s time to make a list of all the things we’re grateful to God for…So, let us be thankful and give thanks, for this is the will of God for us.